The Transitional or Cardboard Cathedral

The Transitional or Cardboard Cathedral

Container café

Container café

A chocolate café on a doubledecker bus!

A chocolate café on a doubledecker bus!

The container mall in the downtown: Re-Start!

The container mall in the downtown: Re-Start!

A container book store

A container book store

Simply New Zealand - cantilevered containers

Simply New Zealand – cantilevered containers

This shed is a fully equipped workshop for people who want to repair or build a bicycle, perhaps to donate to the community.

This shed is a fully equipped workshop for people who want to repair or build a bicycle, perhaps to donate to the community.

The pallet pavilion

The pallet pavilion

Pallets with their sponsors' names - and plants

Pallets with their sponsors’ names – and plants

The stage in the pallet pavilion

The stage in the pallet pavilion

"Rise up, Tacloban" - and Christchurch!

“Rise up, Tacloban” – and Christchurch!

 

            Christchurch is not only rebuilding, it is re-imagining itself.   The earthquake released immense seismic energy and also has inspired tremendous creative energy as those who choose to live here ask:  what will we create from so much emptiness?  They are asking not only what they want their city to look like but what they want it to be.

We attended a service in the “Transitional Cathedral ….  the newest Cathedral in New Zealand, and the only Cathedral in the world made substantially of cardboard.”  A Japanese “emergency architect”, Shigeru Ban, had designed a cardboard church to replace one destroyed in the Kobe quake.  He designed the new cathedral in Christchurch.  It is made of cardboard tubes, local wood and steel, the roof is polycarbonate, the floor concrete.  It is built to 130% of the current earthquake code and is a good symbol for the hope and vision so integral to Christchurch’s “Re-Start”.

On our first afternoon, Lina, our friend Delia and I went out to look for a Thai restaurant near our motel.  A block down I spied a sign that said “Thai Container”.  A strange name for a restaurant, I thought.  Rounding the corner, we found – a freight container, the kitchen and storeroom for a small trailer that served us a hot Thai meal that we ate at outside picnic tables.

Small mobile eateries are common throughout the city.  They came in response to the City Council’s plea for vendors to bring food and drink to the construction sites that sprang up after the quakes.

Containers were trucked in to house more permanent cafes and shops.  We wandered a container mall in the center of the city.  Often a second container sits cantilevered on top of another.   Cutting torches have created doors and windows and staircases have been added to the second floor.   New Zealanders love their coffee, and I saw as many cafes in containers as in buildings.

We came across another form of “transitional architecture” as we walked the city:  a “pallet pavilion” with blue painted pallets stacked high (and pinned together with long steel rods) to create walls and spaces that can be configured in different ways for events such as parties and performance.  This was to be taken down but donations have kept it in place more than a year beyond its anticipated disassembly.

Behind the Victorian façade of the Canterbury Museum next to the Botanical Garden, we found many traditional exhibits on the Maori, the English settler past, natural and social history of the city – and also a huge installation of “street art” or graffiti.   This is apt for a city that is in the process of reinventing itself.

Few cities are faced with rebuilding after a natural disaster.  We have visited two on this trip:  Christchurch and Tacloban on the Philippine island of Leyte.  As different as are these two cities, the disasters they suffered and the resources available to them, both have determined to recreate themselves.  “Tindog Tabloban” (Rise up, Tacloban) echoes the slogans we saw in Christchurch.  With the slogans comes the opportunity to ask fundamental questions about identity and community: “Who are we?  What do we choose to become?”

These are questions we can all be asking.

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