On the 4th of September 2010, the day I left New Zealand, Christchurch was rocked by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, its epicentre was 35 miles away from Christchurch, with a depth of only 7.5 miles it caused widespread damage and a state of emergency was declared. Whilst the quake caused a lot of damage, and power to over 75% of the city was disrupted, there were no fatalities. Unfortunately for Christchurch this was the calm before the storm.
On the 22nd of February 2011 (almost 6 months after the first quake) Christchurch was rocked by a magnitude 6.3 Earthquake, the epicentre was 6 miles away from Christchurch and at a very shallow depth of 3.1 miles. this earthquake has been described to me by engineers in the city as a 1 in 2500 year earthquake, the majority of buildings are designed to withstand a 1 in 100 year disaster.
This earthquake was responsible for 185 deaths, and insurance claims are expected to be in excess of $15 Billion New Zealand.
As an outsider moving to Christchurch it is hard to picture what the ‘garden city’ used to look like. Driving from the airport to my temporary accommodation all I was thinking is you wouldn’t even know an earthquake had hit, perfect suburbia springs to mind in some areas. The closer you get to the central city and things change, you start to see a lot of empty plots of land, almost 2 years on form the February quake and there is still so much demolition to be completed. A lot of the CBD is still closed off to the general public. This is known as the Red Zone.
Looking over the chain link fence it is like looking at a Hollywood movie set, something you would see in one of the Resident Evil movies perhaps, traffic lights flashing on amber and not one person in sight.
Walking further into the city and into parts of the Red Zone which are now open to the public, the devastation is there for everyone to see. Mountains of rubble, damaged buildings, empty tower blocks.
The most disturbing sight of all is the Cathedral, this once amazing part of Christchurch is completely ruined.
Standing in the middle of Cathedral Square looking at this once great building, wondering how it will ever be restored made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It is hard to understand what the people of Christchurch have gone through over the last 2 years, and will continue to go through for the foreseeable future.
One thing I did notice as I was wondering around Christchurch’s CBD was the Red Bus……. A bus tour that takes you ‘beyond the cordon’ and into the Red Zone. This is something that is been promoted as an educational tour, a tour guide will talk you through what happened on the day of the quake, and what the future holds for the city.
I can’t help but think this is a money making exercise for someone. There is plenty of information about the quake and the future plans for the city available online and in various leaflets and posters throughout Christchurch. It hits the nail on the head when the website offers a ‘Special package for cruise ship passengers’ – at $15 per person, this is something I will not be doing.
There is hope
The people of Christchurch have had to evolve and adapt, this can be seen if you look at the ‘Pop up Mall’ which is located on the edge of the Red Zone, built using shipping containers this quirky shopping centre is awesome, and I really hope it stays once the rebuild is complete.
A temporary structure is currently under construction in the heart of the city, ‘The Cardboard Cathedral’ is being built on the site of the old St Johns church which was demolished after the February quake. The Cathedral will be built using paper and cardboard tubes on a timber and steel A Frame. The site is opposite the CTV building where 115 people died in the February quake.
Christchurch Central Recovery Plan
The Christchurch Central Recovery Plan outlines the future of the city, a green city with 30m of walkway either side of the River Avon, a compact CBD, various precincts for healthcare, justice, retail, and sport. The masterplan includes:
- Sports Stadium
- Community Sports Facilities
- Cultural Centre
As somebody working in the construction industry I can safely say there is nowhere on this planet I would rather be for the coming years, I’m excited to be involved in rebuilding and reshaping a city, it will be a very fulfilling challenge knowing that my work will make a difference to the people of Christchurch, and I am sure BIM will have a major part to play in this.