Christchurch Earthquake: 44 months later

October 20, 2014
I was walking in the CBD the other day, marveling at the fact that I call Christchurch “home”. And as I looked around, walking from a favorite cafe to my car, I thought about how much the city has changed since we’ve lived here. It’s less wrecked buildings and more gravel parking lots. It’s less closed roads, and more new pavement. Less sad, more happy. Less boring, more cafes and bars. You get the idea.

But it’s not all pretty yet. Far from it. In fact, I think a lot of things looked better 2 years ago than they do now- because construction is ugly! I decided to retrace my steps from January 2013, to show the progress that’s happened in 21 months (or a total of 44 months later). I attempted to take all the following pictures standing in the exact same spot as I did back then.
Then and Now
(Looks worse, right? But note, missing buildings galore)
(They moved the re:START mall a few blocks- it’s really not worth getting excited about anymore. Cool while it lasted.)
(Bridge of Remembrance. Construction is ugly.)
(Probably won’t be a watch shop…)
Jan 2013
Oct 2014
The above before and after photos are of the Isaac Theatre Royal which is set to reopen in November. This is an example of one of the Christchurch architectural icons that has been preserved thanks to serious efforts and donations.
Some other things, happily, haven’t changed at all:
But this old girl is much the same.
Though there has been a lot of progress, there are still areas that seem utterly untouched since February 22, 2011.
Haven’t Been Touched
Cranes: a staple in the sky

There are also still dozens of historical buildings around the city that haven’t been repaired or torn down. Many hang in the balance, month in and month out, while people argue about money and progress and history. And money.

(Note the Canterbury “all right?” campaign posters- an effort to support mental health of earthquake sufferers.)
The New Christchurch
As fast as demolitions turn into gravel parking lots, new construction begins. Judging by the product thus far, it seems that 10 years from now Christchurch will be The Glass City. There’s a lot of agitation about this, since Christchurch used to be so rich with (British) history. I, for one, think it’s great. Earthquake safe. Progressive. And most importantly, usable. What good are all of the brick buildings held up by scaffolding labeled Too Hazardous To Enter…?
“The Terrace”, coming soon. Riverside restaurants and bars. Outdoor music and festivals. Thank. God.

The Current Christchurch

The best thing about this city, in addition to it’s proximity to the ocean and mountains, is it’s heart. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s really unique. People have come together to create beautiful art, creative spaces, and inspiring venues amidst the dust. 44 months later, this continues to flow.


CBD trams, back in action.
648 flags blowing optimism around cathedral square.
Traffic sheep replace road cones.
A Gap Filler called RAD: Recycle A Dunger
Fix your bike or help fix someone else’s. Bring in your old vintage (or crappy) bike. It will get restored and sold cheap to someone who needs it. Or you can do it yourself!
Wooden palm trees liven up the corner where RAD sits.
A trendy new restaurant: The Brick Farm is the lone brick building standing amongst the rubble. Classic Christchurch.
The Cardboard Cathedral: built from cardboard tubes (think paper towel roll), wood and glass. A controversial church built as a “transitional cathedral” which will stand for 50 years- hopefully long enough for the Christchurch Cathedral to get sorted out!

I always feel a sense of optimism when I walk around the CBD. It is loud and dusty, and frequently ugly, but hey, all that noise means they’re hard at work. And yes, standing on some street corners still feels like being on the set of a post-apolcolyptic Tom Cruise movie. But living here, even visiting here, gives you a sense that you are part of a big change. Even if most of the world has no idea it’s even happening!

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