Saturday, February 11, 2012

Poor Sad Christchurch

I've got Christchurch on my mind. We made a brief visit to the city in January. And I am thinking about it once again as I pen a short piece about Shigeru Ban's upcoming paper tube church, due to rise up from the rubble in three months time. As of December, the entire central business district (CBD) was still closed off and declared red zone. It is the equivalent of the Loop and North Michigan Avenue having been sucked out of Chicago, my point of reference for most things urban. Unfathomable. In between the hoardings and fences, one can peer inside --the once thriving commercial area now looks like a ghost town. There is still debris in situ, broken glass scattered about and buildings in various states of destruction. It looked like the EQ was just last week. Had this been Japan, I am fairly certain that things would have been tidier, if not cleaned up entirely. Evidently, even buildings that look relatively unscathed have a date with the wrecking ball due to unseen, but very hazardous, structural damage.

True, a make-shift shopping area compiled of shipping containers has sprouted just outside the CBD. On the one hand, this seems like an ingenious way to attract people back into the center of town. Though we saw lots of pedestrians milling about, the stores were understocked and kind of tawdry. We tried to find something to buy out of solidarity but it was a struggle.

I was particularly struck by the many 19th century churches outside the CBD. While awaiting repair, their steeples sit on the ground, alongside the main edifices. We witnessed this again and again. Hopefully they can all be resurrected. But bringing these historic structures up to code will be a challenge and a great expense no doubt.

The gate at the Jewish Community Center, itself in total disarray, was hauntingly off kilter. We were very relieved to learn that money is being raised for the center's rebuilding. In the meantime, weekly services take place in a member's home.

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