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Christchurch NZ Churches in Ruins After Quake 2011

Iconic Buildings Damaged in Christchurch

Note: another after-shock, or earthquake, was felt in Christchurch today, 28 February, 2011, Magnitude 4.1.

The fate of many buildings all over Christchurch is under question: Many people have had to flee their homes because they are uninhabitable. Many houses have simply fallen down in a heap. Even if buildings are still standing, such as the Christchurch Canterbury Cathedral, they are still at risk because of ‘after-shocks’ which, in effect, are simply earthquakes.

The iconic buildings of Christchurch were built in stone, and this fact makes them especially vulnerable to earthquakes. Earthquake-prone regions are best to use wood instead of stone for building their monuments, as this material is flexible and can stand more pressure and movement than can a brick or concrete building.

At the time of the planning of the Christchurch Cathedral, shortly after 1850, the earthquake risk in Christchurch was not truly understood. The traditional building material of a Church was stone, as this, in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, was the material almost always used, as it stood the ravages of time, and presented a truly awesome symbol of the Church.

The stone Cathedral is a symbol of the enduring quality of the Church. A Cathedral, or a large Church, traditionally must be built in stone to create a focus for its city, giving a sustaining image of tall grandeur and wonder, illuminating to its people. The church or Cathedral built of stone symbolized a huge amount of effort and expense. All these things were considered to be important in erecting an edifice to God by the early colonial architects.

So the long-held view of the architects who created many of the early Churches prevailed: Stone Churches and Cathedrals were built in Christchurch: These include the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the Church of St Mary’s, and many others.

Even when people began to realize that the earth-quake-prone areas in New Zealand were best not to have stone or concrete structures built on them, some architects persisted in their vision of creating the perfect, stone monument to God. They refused to compromise. The Christchurch Cathedral has been rebuilt several times before, after earthquake.

But now, we see that wooden structures would be infinitely better than stone in Christchurch. Even these run the risk of falling in a large earth-quake, but wood is definitely better.
In my opinion, vast amounts of money should not be spent on fixing up the Cathedral beyond simply making it safe somehow, or by demolishing it. The safest plan would be to rescue any important icons off the building, and relocate them at another site, out of town, well away from this centre of devastation, where a new, mainly wooden, Cathedral could be built. More earthquakes will come, and each time, millions of dollars of damage will be sustained by these old brick buildings. More lives will be lost each time.

The NZ Herald, February 26 2011 gives the following details of the ‘most valued gems’ of Christchurch. As this article tells us, the these buildings, in most cases, represent ‘the pinnacle of its architect’s life work’.

Christchurch Anglican Cathedral – The Canterbury Anglican Cathedral at Christchurch was built between 1864 and 1904. The architect was George Hilbert Scott, who planned the Albert Memorial in London. It is ‘an emblematic building’ , built in the Neo-Gothic style, with a tall and distinctive spire. It is named after Christ Church College, in Oxford, England.

It suffered earthquake damage in 1881, 1888 and 1891. Previously, the tower was damage. In the earthquake of 22 February, 2011, the spire has fallen, and a whole corner section of the building is now rubble.

Most leading Cantabrians, including the Mayor, are keen to have this important central icon, symbol of the city, rebuilt and restored.

Christchurch Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

This is a beautiful building in the High Renaissance, Neo-Classical Style.

This Catholic Cathedral was completed in 1905. The architect was Frank Petre.

It is one of the most impressive examples of Church architecture, not just in Australasia as the Herald stated, but in the world: Gerorge Bernard Shaw visited Christchurch in 1899, and was most impressed with this Catholic monument. He thought that the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament ‘stood comparison with the work of the Italian Renaissance master, Brunelleschi’.

The Catholic Cathedral in Christchurch has been the ‘heart of the Catholic diocese for more than a 100 years’.

It is built in Oamaru stone, with concrete heart walls. The sanctuary mosaic was created by Italian craftsmen who were brought over from Sydney in 1916.

This is another important icon of Christchurch City which many will be keen to have rebuilt and restored.

The Presbyterian Knox Church

The architects of this Church are Robert and Edward England. It was completed around 1902 and is an example of the Gothic Revival Style. It was registered as a historic place in 1984.

This beautiful building has been badly damaged by the earthquake.

Methodist Church at Durham Street.

This was built in 1864 and designed by architects Crouch and Wilson. Methodist communities from Cornwall and the Midlands were strong here in Christchurch in the mid-19th century. The Church at Durham Street is typical of Methodist structures of the period, which were designed without the elaborate features of the Anglican and Catholic Churches. They generally had a hall-like shape, with no large processional aisles leading up to where the preacher stood close to the congregation, easily seen and heard by all. The ‘word’ was the operative word, and no-one stood on ceremony. Consequently, these Churches have a bland and unimposing look to them.

Other Iconic Buildings in Ruins:

The Arts Centre.

This was designed by Benjamin Mountford. Completed around 1877.

This was the original University of Canterbury. It was functional as the university until 1975, when the faculties moved to Ilam.

Over the years, two different secondary schools have used the buildings. More recently it has been used as an art centre, where it housed art and craft shops, cafes, and the Court Theatre.

The Lyttleton Timeball Station

This was completed in 1876. The architect was Thomas Cane, and the Stonemason was William Brassington.

The Lyttleton Timeball Station is unique: Until the earthquake of last Tuesday, it was only one of five surviving time-ball stations in the world. Ships waiting in the harbour used to set their time by the drop of the ball. It is made of Oamaru stone and Sumner Road scoria.

Probable Demolition in Christchurch;
755 Doomed Buildings in Christchurch CBD
Hundreds of buildings in Christchurch, many of them historic, are in danger of imminent collapse.
The council has assessed 2955 buildings in the CBD area so far, and 755 of these had been given the ‘red sticker’, which means they face demolition, as they are unsafe.
The ‘yellow sticker’ has been applied to 909 other buildings, which indicates that their status in the recovery plan is dubious.
The historic Anglican Church of St Mary’s was sadly given ‘the hard ball’ of demolition over the weekend. Many other beautiful buildings will have to go.
Spokesman Paul Baxter from ‘Urban Search and Rescue’ indicates that progress is being made at the three largest sites of disaster in the CBD: The Cathedral site, the Pyne Gould site, and the CTV site.
A de-layering of the rubble at the devastated Pyne Gould site has begun. This de-layering has proved to be a complicated process because of the presence of asbestos in the fabric of the building.
The Hotel Grand Chancellor, which is still standing but threatening to fall, is a challenging operation still yet to begin. This is because the huge multi-storey building will have to be reinforced somehow so that it can be searched before it is demolished.
The sudden change effected by the earthquake damage, and the loss of familiar buildings once the place is restored, will surely affect the emotions of Cantabrians. Adapting to what will be a new environment will not be easy when the rebuilding is finally achieved.
In my opinion, vast amounts of money should not be spent on fixing up the Cathedral beyond simply making it safe somehow, or by demolishing it. The safest plan would be to rescue any important icons off the building, and relocate them at another site, out of town, well away from this centre of devastation, where a new, mainly wooden, Cathedral could be built. More earthquakes will come, and each time, millions of dollars of damage will be sustained by these old brick buildings.
Many people have had to flee their homes, with no hope of ever returning to live in theses places.
But, actually, it is amazing that so many people have got out of this stricken mess alive, and I am sure people are eternally grateful for the life they still have, no matter what.

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