Christchurch’s Monday’s 6.3 earthquake at a depth of 6.1 Kilometers was, yet again, on a fault no one knew about.

Many more buildings, including churches, were damaged, and further battered. Lyttelton’s historic Anglican church has now gone. The iconic rose window of the Anglican Cathedral collapsed on Monday. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament now looks beyond saving.

When the words “rebuild” and “the” are used in association with the Anglican Cathedral as in “we will rebuild the cathedral”, some/many are hearing this as putting the previous building back or making a replica of it. Closer reading shows that the speakers do not mean that by those words. Earlier I wrote that I suspected a replica would be made of the 19th century building. I now am far less convinced of that.

Generally, people’s frustration is growing. Many have been without water, power, and/or sewerage for long periods. Flooding, silt, raw sewerage, broken houses, slow official responses, and insurance disputes are some of the ongoing aggravations. Nearly one-fifth of people in a Press online poll say they are planning to leave Christchurch because of the earthquakes. Another quarter said they would leave if they could, but were held back by either their property or job. Scientists keep making probability predictions which are clearly un-falsifiable and so not Science, and only add to the sense of confusion and panic. Rumours are rampant that much of the land cannot be built on again – I have heard suggestions of 50% of Christchurch and 13 suburbs. That includes rumours about the CBD and Cathedral Square. This morning’s front page of the Press reports being prepared for the possibility of the whole city moving west.

Buildings built very recently have not withstood the earthquakes and are to be taken down. These are to supposedly-stringent codes making promises of a safe future Christchurch ring hollow.

CHRISTOPHER WILSON, WILSON & HILL ARCHITECTS Ernest Henshaw's vision

The legalities of having each individual city building owner responsible for the deconstruction, demolition, and removal of rubble of their individual building appears to me to be unbelievably ridiculous. Any glance down streets in the closed central-city “red zone” shows whole rows of buildings reduced to rubble which IMO could/should have been moved by now except for each building owner being responsible for their own pile.

I have previously written about my fear that a decade or two down the track when there is a new Christchurch here it will be in the now-beloved “I can draw rectangles” style of architecture. Ernest Henshaw recently better articulated my concerns in an article in which he argued that the decision to rule out, in advance, any alteration to the city’s grid of streets, any interference with property titles, and any interference with surviving buildings, will mean that we will end up with what we had previously only in a tilt slab version.

We may have an opportunity to create something visionary, and the church(es) may too. That IMO will require a qualitatively new approach.

image source rose window
image source Cathedral West end

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