Five years ago on this day, February 22, at 12:52 pm, an earthquake struck Christchurch. It devastated New Zealand’s ‘Garden City,’ killing 185 people – 115 of them when the Canterbury Television Building collapsed. At least half of the buildings in the downtown core, many of them national landmarks and heritage sites, were damaged and marked for demolition. Some are still standing today, ghostly monoliths awaiting their final collapse.
Christchurch today is a mix of rebuild and relic. It’s surreal, like an enormous film set going up in one swoop, or a giant Meccano toy of cranes and girders.
There are stark reminders of the wreckage everywhere; it is widespread and mesmerizing. But there’s also a palpable sense of optimism and opportunity and hope. As one local Kiwi put it: “We don’t give a toss about brick and mortar… nothing is permanent.”
Indeed, the recovery itself is now what visitors gawk at in this once genteel Britannic town where even the river is called the Avon.
Besides the new-wave glass and steel structures going up, there are shipping containers everywhere – some transformed into shopping and eatery outlets, others stacked in sturdy columns in front of beloved old buildings in case they fall before being saved.
Swaths of areas are fenced off in what was once downtown: banners proclaim a new Performance Arts Precinct coming here, a modern Convention Center Precinct there, A Retail Precinct, A remodeled Town Square, a refurbished riverside park – the city is a quasi-blank canvas for creativity and possibilities.
We’re here in this special city at this peculiar time, enduring early morning construction noise and late-night tremors, to close Quidam for good on Friday night, Feb 26.
We’re delighting sold-out crowds at the Arena, as folks have both affection for our show and a longing to cheer something magical. It’s a fitting venue to end a remarkable 20-year run, providing us all an example of resilience, a backdrop of courage and a reminder that if you feel the earth shake and see the sky fall as the end comes, it’s time to dust yourself off, take a deep breath and forge ahead. Renew.
CHCH2016 Photo Gallery here
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