Let a garden grow

Written By: - Date published: 12:45 pm, March 5th, 2012 - 15 comments
Categories: disaster, heritage - Tags: ,

Of course there is widespread shock and disappointment at the decision not to rebuild the Christchurch Cathedral. But it’s hardly unexpected. The building is stuffed. And even if rebuilt at massive expense, who could guarantee its future safety?

I grew up in Christchurch. Many’s the sunny lunchtime I spent in The Square (usually listening to the wit and wisdom of the Wizard – g’day Ian). I love that building as a symbol of the city as much as anyone I think, and I understand and respect those that are going to fight to save it. Good for you.

But if that fight is lost and the building, as planned, comes down, then I won’t grieve too much. Even reduced to a ring of walls, the Cathedral can serve a fantastic role in the city. Bishop Matthews has apparently suggested turning the site into a prayer garden. Interpreted broadly as a place of multi-cultural prayer / mediation and remembrance, I think this is a great idea. Some of the ruined cathedrals of Europe are powerful and beautiful places.

Things change. Christchurch is changed forever and there’s no going back. Let the heart of the old city become its memorial, and thus serve a vital role in the new city that emerges.

15 comments on “Let a garden grow”

  1. happynz 1

    That’s a beautiful picture. A garden of the sort as illustrated in the picture would be very nice.

    • r0b 1.1

      It’s Glastonbury Abbey. Spent a wonderful day there in 1989 on our way home from the festival (but that isn’t my picture, unfortunately).

  2. Ianupnorth 2

    I can understand the upset (I have on my desktop a picture of my kids on a tram with the cathedral in the background)
    Recently on the Billy Connolly Route 66 doco he visited Oklahoma City memorial which had 160 odd glass chairs that lit up at night; leave some of the shell of the cathedral, but remember those that passed in a similar, dignified way.
    See http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/secondary.php?section=2&catid=30

  3. Bored 3

    It would be wonderful to have a “relic’ style garden BUT there is the issue of leaving enough structure to make it worthwhile being problematic with regard to safety.

    Old Christchurch was centred around Cathedral Square, automobiles and strip malls, along with the movement of head offices away from Christchurch, and the end of local manufacturing have left the city centre denuded of purpose. The end of the oil / car age and the relocalisation that will follow will see the inner cities take on a renewed significance.

    On that basis should not Christchurch plan for the utilisation of the Cathedral site and Square as a future focal point: I doubt that religion will go away soon and there is a need for a communal facility. Coventry faced this issue post the bombing of their cathedral. I reckon run an architectural competition, then build something very special.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    Interpreted broadly as a place of multi-cultural prayer / mediation and remembrance, I think this is a great idea.

    That’s an awesome idea.

  5. hellonearthis 5

    Wow there goes a money maker, there where heaps of Japanese people who came to NZ just to get married in that classic old building. No rebuild is an end of an error.

    I don’t like the New Plans that the US bishop(?) is putting forward, it’s not very kiwi and wreaks of USA glitz.

  6. house 6

    I don’t understand why the model provided by Coventry Cathedral is not being floated. The shell of the old cathedral (which was bombed out during the Second World War) is flawlessly incorporated into the new cathedral.

    Not only is it stunning but it is the perfect synthesis of memorial/working church – sympathetic to the past and future.


  7. vto 7

    I am sure both the anglican church and the council and the wider community will thrash it around to come up with something entirely fitting.

    As a a tangential interest … the cathedral has thrown up a generational outlook over this and the town hall. The Christchurch town hall is considered by those younger than about 40-50 as most definitely worth saving and the cathedral not. It is seeminlgy a clear demarcation. A reflection of the changing times i supposes..

  8. infused 8

    For once I agree. This would be quite cool. It does however piss me off everyone calling for a debate over trying to save this Church. I trust a lot of work has been done before the decision was made to pull it down.

  9. Maui 9

    The ancient Greeks created memorials to their dead, and then let them decay .. as memory does.

    The ruins of Ōtautahi Cathedral could one day accrete contradictory layers of myth, legend, knowledge, and lore – as Stonehenge has done, whatever its builders called it.

    It remains a monument to the folly of building on a braided river valley on top of active faults between moving tectonic plates, which also applies in other urban areas.

    Let the old rocks moulder and build up layers of South Island moss, much prized by those who appreciate natural processes .. and the fickleness and wit of Zen.

    • vto 9.1

      “It remains a monument to the folly of building ………. on top of active faults between moving tectonic plates”

      Not even seismologists knew there were active faults under Chch.

      And regarding building between moving tectonic plates – well, you have just referenced the entire South Island and about half of the North Island as well as all most of the Pacific Ocean’s coastline, much of the Mediteranean and huges swathes of the rest of the planet.

      I suppose we could build in Auckland where a giant volcano rose from the harbour back in about 1300 (only 300-odd years before Tasman arrived), or the Waikato-Taupo-Tauranga region where volcanic activity reigns supreme, or Wellington say-no-more, or the clay hillsides of pretty much most of rural NZ which slip slide away, or the river valleys of those areas not on hills and be flooded every few years.

      I mean, seriously, there aint a single location in NZ that is not at risk of some kind of natural disaster, either known or unknown as in the case of Chch.

      The folly in NZ is building in a manner unsuitable for the particular environment e.g. unreinforced masonry in Wellington… shiver ….

      We should all be building on stilts and out of timber.

  10. Ordinary_Bloke 10

    The descendants of Nippon and of Amaterasu have been doing it for a long time. Traditional Japanese architecture, although functional and ornate, was designed in such a way that it could be easily rebuilt after catastrophe, such as quake.

    In recent years, of course, they have been obsessed with bettering the west so that concrete structures now dominate their cities, waiting for the next big Kanto shake.

    We would *not* wish to go back to medieval Japan, but some of their construction techniques, combined with sustainable design, are worth investigating in our low-growth economy, especially with our abundance of wood.


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