I walked through some of Christchurch’s devastated centre today, around the edge of the Red Zone.
The sun was shining; a beautiful ‘traditional’ Canterbury winter’s day. Barely a puff of wind. Barely anyone around. Lots of silence.
Some buildings appeared untouched. Others leant intoxicatedly, wobbly on unstable foundations. Smashed windows leered and broken water pipes spewed murky liquid. Bare sections marked the first-fallen structures.
Footpaths and roads undulated, pushing the sand and silt and goodness knows what else into zigzagging channels. Puddles were deceptively deep, a calm cap over sharp subsidence in the tarmac. Large carparks were transformed into lakes.
The skyline was unfamiliar. From where Metro Cafe once stood, the BNZ Building is now visible down Colombo Street, the Cathedral’s spire no longer impeding the view. The entire side of Les Mills is now exposed, unhindered by the CTV building. How does the slanting Grand Chancellor continue to defy gravity?
It was a shock to see the main Town Hall entranceway boarded up. The Convention Centre’s door was shattered and the Crowne Plaza (where I used to work years ago when it was a shiny new Park Royal) stood forlornly, a hollow shell.
Yet despite the destruction and in the face of years of renewal, today’s city centre was peaceful. Calm. Quiet. Beautiful.
I wondered what the centre would look like if the demolished buildings were all ‘replaced’ with open spaces, grass, trees and plants – enhancing further our Garden City history.
I wondered what the centre would sound like if cars were kept at bay, with only pedestrians and cyclists and electric buses/delivery vehicles allowed inside the ‘four aves’.
I wondered what the centre would feel like if more people lived there, walked and worked and shopped and ate and learnt and partied and relaxed and played…
Bring it on. Calmly.