Welcome to Christchurch

Welcome to Christchurch

Welcome to Christchurch

At the beginning of August I was briefly in Christchurch to visit my family.  It was the first time I had visited since the big earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011.  As well as these two major quakes, there have been over 11,000 tremors recorded.  These include everything from barely perceptible movements to big frightening quakes.  I took two long walks with my camera through the central business district on one of my days there.

Each photo may be enlarged just by clicking on it.  I hope you do this.  There is simply so much to see.

Chateau Blanc Suites

Chateau Blanc Suites.  While some buildings look completely intact, the signs on the windows warn that all is not well inside.

Children's paintings opposite the Central Library.

Children’s paintings opposite the Central Library.  I don’t know the fate of the library.  Certainly it isn’t in use at the moment.  Books are rehoused and borrowed from other sites.

Arrow, cones and figure.

Arrow, cones and figure.  Many streets in the CBD are only allowed to be accessed by pedestrian traffic.

Cathedral in the Square (minus its tower).

Cathedral in the Square (minus its tower).  I believe the dear old Cathedral, icon of Christchurch, will be demolished.

Sad face, Cashel Street Mall.

Sad face, Cashel Street Mall.

Two figures in a landscape.

Two figures in a landscape.

Four figures in a landscape.

Four figures in a landscape.

Girl in birdcage at the seedy end of town.

Girl in birdcage at (what was) the seedy end of town.

Theatre collapse - side view.

Theatre collapse – side view.

Theatre collapse - front view.

Theatre collapse – front view.  Many buildings have been demolished.  I am not sure which of the ones still standing will be demolished and which will be fixed up.

Red Fix

Red Fix Expresso Bar

On High Street

On High Street

On High Street - through the 'keep out' fencing.

On High Street – through the ‘keep out’ fencing.

landscape with red container under a norwest sky.

Landscape with red container under a norwest sky.

Road Closed.

Road Closed.

White chairs - a memorial to the people who died on 22nd February; one chair for each person.

185 white chairs – a memorial to the people who died on 22nd February; one chair for each person.  The installation is by Pete Majendie.

Treat with respect.

“Please respect this site” a tagged notice on the site of The Canterbury Television Building.   The CTV building collapsed, then caught fire.  Many people died here on February 22nd, 2011, including international students studying english.

Business open on New Regent Street.

Open for business.  New Regent street is a quirky and historic street which happily has reopened.  When I was there, people were enjoying lunch sitting outside cafes.

Landscape with child's painting.

Landscape with Ngaire’s painting.  It is so hard to get one’s head around all the empty space.  It is disorientating.  One keeps asking oneself “which buildings were here before?”

Art on an exposed wall.

Art on an exposed wall.

Undefeated

Undefeated

Late afternoon glow on Christchurch.

Late afternoon glow on Christchurch.  All this SPACE – used to be city buildings!

Late afternoon glow on Christchurch

Late afternoon with the kinetic sculpture “Nucleus” by Phil Price catching the sun.  This sculpture has become a symbol of resilience.  Its petals have kept turning throughout EVERYTHING.

'High vis' man ready to knock off work.

‘High vis’ man ready to knock off work.

Two visual messages.

“Save Christchurch” by Kyle.  Behind you see this “Protect your investment” sign.  Old signs, in the past covered by buildings, have become re-exposed with their demise.

people people people

people people people!!! in the city

In the photo above “people people people!!! in the city” you can see the words ‘Gap Filler’.  This refers to a project started by Coralie Winn to inhabit abandoned spaces with quirky, eye-catching installations and temporary creative projects.  Certainly examples caught my eye and reminded me of the importance of art in society, including as a vehicle for healing.

Two happy paintings.

Two happy paintings, one unsigned, the other by Eva.

Landscape with painting in the fading light.

Landscape with painting in the fading light.

Demolition.

Demolition.  The truck says it all.  A lone figure walks through this quiet urbanscape.

This would have been 'rush hour' pre-2011.

This would have been ‘rush hour’ pre-2011.  It is still kind of hauntingly beautiful to me.

The photo below shows a house teetering on the edge of a cliff in the suburb of Redcliffs.  I didn’t have time to see the suburbs except for a quick trip out to Sumner (a suburb by the sea).  I used to rather fancy living in one of the houses up on Redcliffs.  They enjoyed extensive views FOREVER encompassing the Southern Alps, the Kaikoura Mountains, and the sea.  Now they lean at broken angles and gape vacantly, their insides exposed.

House at Redcliffs

House at Redcliffs

Christchurch has made it into Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities to visit in 2013.  Siobhan Leathley writes in ‘The New Zealand Herald’, “The city, described by Lonely Planet as “rising from the rubble with a breath-taking mix of spirit, determination and flair”, is ranked 6th on the travel publisher’s Top 10 Cities for 2013.” (22nd October 2012).

Known as 'the Garden City' Christchurch's flowerbeds and gardens are still lovingly tendered. In the distance, the only part of the building standing is the facade.

Known as ‘the Garden City’ Christchurch’s flowerbeds and gardens are still lovingly tended. In the distance, the only part of the building standing is the facade.

Ordering lunch at the funky outdoor cafe area constructed with blue-painted wooden palletes.

Ordering lunch at the funky outdoor cafe area constructed with blue-painted wooden pallets.

Jail Breaker Coffee in the blue wooden pallete area.

Jail Breaker Coffee in the blue wooden pallet area.

I had a some trepidation about visiting Christchurch.  Having lived and studied there for four years long ago, I was afraid to see it post-earthquakes.  Two and a half years after the most devastating quake, so much has been cleared away.  Actually, I loved being there.  I plan to visit more often now and will watch with continued fascination to see the New Christchurch unfold.

A quote from “A City Recovers: Christchurch Two Years after the Quakes” published by The Press in 2013 (ISBN 978-1-77553-321-4) page 300 “In an interview in 2011, architect and urban planner David Sim was asked whether Christchurch could be reborn and rebuilt from a blank canvas.  No such thing existed, the plain-speaking Scot replied.  A city is not simply composed of buildings.  It’s a composite landscape of history, human experience and aspirations that even natural or man-made disasters cannot eradicate.  What we make of it is up to us.”

“Nowhere is this more true than in the arts, where human emotions, beliefs and imagination are made tangible.  In small and large ways, individually and collectively, Christchurch’s arts community reacted to an unfolding human disaster with innovation and resilience, proving beyond any doubt that the arts have played – and will continue to play – a pivotal role in the city’s recovery.”

See also Christchurch Revisited – a post written in April 2014 after visiting Christchurch again.

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About juliepodstolski

I am a realist artist who works in coloured pencils.
Image | This entry was posted in art, photo portraits of cities, photography, travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Welcome to Christchurch

  1. It’s wonderful to have you back, Julie! Very poignant images. I look forward to seeing more of your trip through your photos!

  2. Ann Kullberg says:

    Love your eye, Julie. Had no idea there was still so much damage. Those poor people. Having volunteered after the Japanese tsunami a few years back, I know how devastating these things are for years and years and years…

    • The Japanese tsunami makes Christchurch’s damage pale in comparison. If the two disasters were represented by birds standing next to one another, the tsunami would be crane-sized while the Christchurch earthquake sparrow-sized.
      As for ‘my eye’ Ann, while it may seem a glib and disrespectful thing to say, Christchurch was a photographer’s dream. As you can see, so much material, so many contrasts. I wish that I had had a lot longer there to observe with my camera.

  3. Vicki Truman says:

    Oh Julie, such an emotional thing to view your photographs. I live in ‘tornado’ country myself (Kansas-USA) and have seen mother natures mighty destruction – the 1991 Andover tornado that killed 24 people, the Greensburg tornado in May of 2007 destroyed the whole town and the Joplin tornado in 2011 were the worst that I can remember in my lifetime. At least with a tornado you can seek shelter. Earthquakes are another story altogether! I worry about my son that lives on the coast of California and one that is in Japan. I pray for their safety daily.
    Human Beings are amazingly resilient. It is awesome and inspiring to watch them build back.

  4. My first thought was that Christchurch must look like a war zone … but I imagine that these photos encapsulate the worst part. My next thought was Jeffrey Smart – some of those images really remind me of his work, very still and enigmatic. They are great photos, you compose very well – I can see potential drawings there, although choosing appropriate imagery may be difficult! I’m glad you found re-visiting Christchurch an uplifting experience rather than a depressing one.

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