Christchurch is a city of destruction and reconstruction.
Traffic cones and empty lots everywhere. Buildings roped off and in varying states of decay/abandonment. New high rises popping up from an empty flat plain.
For being on of the largest cities in New Zealand, Christchurch was not the bustling city you’d expect. The two earthquakes, one in 2010 and one in 2011, truly ravaged the city and 6 years on, recovery is still a slow process.
Since the old cathedral downtown was destroyed and made unsafe by the earthquake, a new one had to be built. In order to built it quickly and with limited resources, the building materials of the cathedral are not what you’d expect–almost the entire building is made of cardboard.
Officially named the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral, but appropriately dubbed the “Cardboard Cathedral,” the building has been such a huge hit that there are no future plans to tear it down and build a more permanent building.
All of the tubes seen are layered cardboard, similar to the tube of wrapping paper, but much thicker. They are present on the walls, in the cross, on tables, etc. The tubes that make up the roof are shielded from the outside by industrial plastic sheeting. On each side of the main space, there are three shipping containers that have been turned into a small room, including a kitchen and a chapel. The stained glass window features printed designs of the pictures of the window that was in the original old cathedral. Some panels can even be slightly opened to allow better ventilation. A beautiful mixture of basic and high-tech.
The Re:Start shopping centre is another post-earthquake attraction. It’s a normal outside mall bursting with people; the only difference is that the entire thing is made from shipping containers. The containers are ubiquitous around the city (I’ve never seen so many in one place before). The mall is also home to the earthquake memorial as it is a major symbol of the resiliency of the city and its people.
The Christchurch Museum was a nice introduction to some Kiwi culture. The moa bird is similar in size to ostriches and emus but is now extinct as it was haunted to death by the Maori people.
Paua shells are distinctly Kiwi, especially on the South Island. A couple decorated their entire house in the iridescent shells and subsequently opened their house to the public as a tourist attraction. The house has been moved into the museum and really exemplifies the beach-y culture of South Island coastal New Zealand.
A doll house featured in the museum, which was shaken in the earthquake, was left untouched for the last 6 years. Furniture was strewn about the room, dolls were thrown from their perch, and generally havoc was wreaked everywhere. It served as another reminder of the travesty of the earthquake and how much it effected everything.
New Zealand reaches farther south than Australia and is therefore closer to Antarctica. They really pride themselves on being the portal to Antartica and featured lots of Antarctic wildlife in their natural history displays.
And of course, kiwis, the national bird of New Zealand and also a national icon. They were much larger than I had thought.
A gorgeous botanic gardens right downtown seems to have been unmarred by the earthquake. Huge trees are dotted all across a large lawn providing a ton of much needed shade.