Thursday, June 16, 2011

Downhearted

Sigh. While thousands of people in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch wait, understandably less and less patiently, to find out if their suburb is on the list for clearance as henceforth uninhabitable, the verdict has been pronounced on both of the city's cathedrals. After Monday's double shake, Christ Church Cathedral in the Square, and the Roman Catholic cathedral in Barbados Street are both going to have to be demolished completely. The fancy Baroque Catholic one is beyond saving, but there's still some hope that the neo-Gothic Anglican one will be able to be taken down, the stonework saved - although the pretty Rose Window is now in bits after Monday.

What happens then it's still far too soon to say: reconstructed, or a new design entirely, something modern or reflecting what was lost - that's a decision that no-one is able even to think about right now. There have been 6,800 after-shocks since the September quake, and 15 since February that have been 5-plus, with no end in sight, so for most people their focus has shortened to just getting through each day.

After I went to Frankfurt and Mainz last month, where I was delighted to find that many of the pretty medieval houses I admired there and elsewhere in Germany were actually reconstructions after they were destroyed in bombing during the war, I facilely thought that that could be the way for Christchurch to go: putting back up replicas of all the character buildings that everyone loved, and never mind highfaluting ideals like architectural honesty. But at least the war ended, full stop, in 1945 and the rebuilding could begin with confidence.

Canterbury's seismic activity is such an unknown, possibly continuing for no-one knows how long, that thinking about any sort of future for Christchurch is getting harder and harder.
And just to destroy entirely anyone's faith in the benevolence of Mother Nature, people trying to leave Christchurch by air have been trapped at the airport by ash from the volcano currently erupting in Chile. I think we've all got it by now, Earth: you're in charge.

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