Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Gardens in the Central City

Earlier this month (7th November, 2013) was the first time I have had the opportunity to walk through the Central City of Christchurch since before the earthquakes began, more than 3 years ago. Half the time I kept becoming mystified as to where I was; you don't realise how much you take buildings as land marks for granted until most of them are no longer there and there were surely more gaps now than there were buildings. But people have been filling some of those gaps with art and gardens and we have beauty amongst desolation.  

A garden featuring NZ flax (botanical name Phornium) is on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo Streets, Central City. Note the cranes and the scaffolded building in background. The building is the Theatre Royal which has received tremendous support from Hobbit star, Sir Ian McKellan; British actor, Miriam Margolies; New Zealand group, Flight of the Conchords; and actor and writer Richard O'Brien. This support has now enabled restoration work to begin. 

This garden whare (whare is house in te reo Māori) is sited in front of the STILLbroken Anglican Christchurch Cathedral in the Square. Personally I'd keep this wee whare and knock down that pakaru cathedral, a colonial copy of  English Gothic Revivalist tradition (which is in itself a copy from an earlier time - I mean, how totally FAKE can you get - but there is no accounting for taste and folk I suppose.

Close up of the Garden Whare roof. This picture has become my current desktop picture. 

A community garden built from pallets and other recycled and found objects where once there would have been large buildings. This garden can be found along High Street, between Manchester and Madras Streets, and you can see Manchester Street in the background.

More than three years later and we still have broken buildings (this one in High Street) partly because there are just so many to demolish and partly because of the insurance industry swinging the lead. If this one hangs around much longer it will become a garden itself. Nature is doing good work here.

 A garden streetscape also created from recycled and found objects. Flowering cabbage tree (cordyline australis or Ti Kouka in te reo Māori) and more broken buildings in background and I think I see a sliver of a view of the Controversial Anglican Cardboard Cathedral built to sustain parishoners and tourists alike, until the rows over the old one are finally resolved and a new "proper" Anglican Cathedral is built. Or the old one is restored. Or a replica of that old colonial Gothic Revival is built. Or something. 

Not really a garden. This is an installation by artist Peter Majendie called Reflections of Lost Lives, Livelihoods and Living in the Neighbourhood. The 185 individual white chairs commemorate the 185 lives lost on the 22nd of February, 2011. Originally this installation first placed in February 2012 was planned to stand for only a week but people want it to remain. It is a fitting memorial I think.   


  1. I think the garden Whare is so lovely. As is your picture of the flowers of the roof. But very sad the fate of Christchurch and the people who called it home. And still do.

    1. Ae. I had no idea until all this happened just how long it can take to get back to some kind of "normal". Although I do think the current governments heavy-handed approach to the whole thing has not helped one iota. But meantime, these Gap Filler http://www.gapfiller.org.nz/ projects and various art installations do much to lighten the soul.

  2. It's always good to see a community like Christchurch come together and create small projects to both look toward the future and remember the victims of the earthquake. The reflections memorial seems to be the sort of post-modern art that better reflects the world we live in today. I hope the city maintains it. It is sad to see so many broken buildings. It seems what has been done with the roof gardens and the little parks might offer a measure of hope to survivors who have lost neighbors. Time doesn't heal all wounds, but still the flowers grow!

  3. Excellent to see the planting in the city Iri and the mark of the irrepressible gardener on the landscape. It is symbolic of the fortitude of the human spirit in the face of adversity and showing nature that there are bits of it that we can still control whatever upheavals she throws at us. I like the permaculture type bath and tyre arrangement, very nice indeed. Thanks for sharing these views of Christchurch today Iri. Interesting what you say about the cathedral being fake and whether it is worth saving? Why can't they just make it a ruin (there are thousands here) and then build a new bit on to the ruin like they did at Coventry Cathedral when the old one got bombed. Bingo!...something for everybody (except the athiests of course)! Interesting to see what is going on in your part of the world Iri, the flowers are beautiful!

  4. Its Christmas Eve and I find it very hard to imagine the warmth and sunshine on your side of the world. Christmas in the sun seems like a very odd concept to me. But.. its Christmas Eve so here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and may Santa be good to you :-)