Showing posts with label Christchurch Cathedral. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christchurch Cathedral. Show all posts

21 March 2012

After the Christchurch earthquake

The Christchurch earthquake in February 2011 seriously damaged the 19th century cathedral as well as causing terrible additional damage and many deaths. It is now certain the building must be demolished. What should replace it?

Christchurch Cathedral after the earthquakeNoah Cremisino has posted an article about the lovely old cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand. The remains of the old building are unsafe and unrepairable. He asks his readers to suggest what should replace it at the centre of the city.

Although I'm an outsider and have never visited New Zealand, I'd still like to offer some suggestions. But first, I believe the city should give itself plenty of time to consider the options.

If the building cannot be saved, perhaps the best thing would be to demolish the remains quickly, perhaps leaving some of the fallen stones where they lie as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the city. Then turn the rest of the site into a temporary garden until a decision can finally be made. There is no hurry and there will be many needs that are far more urgent and pressing, probably for some years to come.

I would like to think that any new building would be a modern, earthquake resistant structure, but echoing some of the cathedral's iconic features - maybe a square tower and spire of the same size in the same place (a steel skeleton or a full building), some patterns similar to the geometric design from the old roof, even some of the original carved ornamentation reused to create landscape features.

Consider using the ground floor of any new structure as a multi-purpose space for concerts, large church gatherings, temporary exhibitions etc. Include rooms of various sizes as well as a place for coffee, an earthquake library, a before and after photo display, etc.

Most importantly, involve the city's population in making suggestions and voting on ideas before any final choices are made.

You might like to review how Coventry Cathedral in the UK was rebuilt after its destruction in a World War II air raid. The old ruins and the new building are full of messages for anyone with eyes to see. It's a different culture and a different era so there's no direct application from Coventry to Christchurch. But you might do something very different yet still draw on some principles from the Coventry experience.

In fact, why not contact the city and cathedral of Coventry and set up a Christchurch/Coventry exchange or twinning arrangement? Compare notes and visit one another's cities.

But that's more than enough from an interfering old Brit. I'm confident that the city and people of Christchurch will come up with a really great way to use this tragically available city space. What better way to end this article than a quote from the Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews.
The Diocese of Christchurch promises to work with the people of Christchurch-Canterbury as we recover together. We are a resurrection people. No amount of death and destruction will defeat us.
See also: Christchurch Cathedral's website

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