Over the weekend I borrowed a charming old bicycle from my architect friend Guy Evans and we rode around the accessible bits of Christchurch’s CBD.
The vibrations of demolition shook the ground as we passed numerous large office buildings in various stages of being dismantled. The tool of choice for doing so is not the cliched wrecking ball or dynamite, but the more methodical and mechanical demolition crane. This device, which reminded me of a scrawny, scavenging bird, picks the building apart rasping bite by bite. The cranes are yellow and orange fixtures on the Christchurch skyline. I stopped opposite one large building a block back from the Calendar Girls strip club, where people had gathered to watch their former workplace torn apart. Apparently, it had until recently been inhabited by squatters.
Later on, as night fell, we rode home, checking out the dark chasms in the city centre where buildings lie derelict and unpaved patches of gravel replace those that have already been demolished. We passed the modern, glass-plated IRD building, which looks undamaged but now sits vacant and ready for destruction. We passed a deserted backpackers, where a pack was still sitting on a bed, abandoned by its owner on February 22 last year.
The next day, we headed out of town to New Brighton, Bexley and on to Recliffs and Sumner. The images below are of the demolition crames working on the $38 million Water’s Edge Apartment complex at Ferrymead. About a dozen people stood around transfixed, watching as the cranes tore through high-end apartment fittings. At one stage the hallway of the sixth floor apartments was exposed, showing a shiny set of lift doors. then the scrawny bird moved in for the kill…
Later we went out to Redcliffs, the area that experienced major rockfalls, killing at least one person and condemning some of the most expensive homes in the city. The busy road beneath Redcliffs is shielded from further rock fall by a line of shipping containers that act as a crash barrier. On the cliff edge above, ruined mansions perch precariously.
Intrigued by the devastation wrought on the fancy part of town, we ventured up into the streets behind the cliffs. Some of the houses there are still occupied – in some cases, people have simply refused to leave. On the cliff face houses that were once the pride and joy of their wealthy owners sit empty and broken, waiting for the demolition that will come one day…
And a reminder of why people chose to build above Redcliffs… the views are stunning.