Thursday, 4 October 2012

Cranmer Court / Old Normal School demolition begins ~

Demolition of the Cranmer Court buildings started today.  This is a great loss to the city regardless of the feasibility of restoration work and associated estimates of the cost. 

Only last week I was in Christchurch and stopped to photograph what remained of those remarkable old buildings, and even now they are being bashed into dust.  Next time I visit the city they will be completely gone only photographs will remain.  I didn't know that at the time.  All these abrupt removals are so disorienting as well as upsetting.  

In their semi-ruined state the big artwork installations of Mike Hewson helped make them eye-catching and breathed some life back into them:

The artwork above can be see in the wider context of the corner of the building in the photograph below:

The image below shows the frontage a little to the right of the one above:

The image below shows the intersection with Kilmore Street across Montreal Street:

This little green house stands quietly next to the red one above.  I have no idea what the fate of these two buildings may be and was in a bit of a rush so didn't have time to stop and look more closely.

Just behind the green house a large area has already been cleared of what ever used to be there.  I had no idea what that may have been:

I crossed the road, hopped up onto the concrete curbing at the right, and peered over the tall gate to get a better look.  The area was large so whatever had been there must have been substantial:

Later, looking on the internet at other photos of the area, I caught a glimpse of what had been there before, and realised it was the multi-storey building in which my father used to work!  I often called in there after school to catch a lift home.  I simply hadn't had recognised the location at all.  I didn't approach it from Cranmer Square so didn't associate the two.  

As demolition work across Christchurch continues the city centre is becoming unrecognisable, and our memories and the places to which these have been anchored are being increasingly eroded - often no longer there at all. 

However, the greenery of Cranmer Square itself remains, already minus the Cranmer Centre on the south west corner of the intersection of Montreal and Armagh Streets.  The Centre was previously the Christchurch Girls High School building.

The careful maintenance and greenery of Christchurch's parks and reserves are perhaps the greatest source of continuity for residents of the battered city, so hats off to the Parks and Reserves department of the City Council for that!

So many of Christchurch's elegant old historic buildings are being swept into the dustpan of history with barely so much as a by-your-leave, if that.  Along with others I ask What Is The Hurry?  Cranmer Court in particular does not stand in the way of anything, and there can be scant reason to remove it with such haste.  Surely, since it was no longer a danger to anyone, it could have been left fenced off potentially until economic times improved and other possibilities could be explored...  

At the very least the demolition could be conducted with a view to removing heritage building materials for later re-use.  As things are all materials are simply being trashed.  I completely agree with the point protesters are making that this wastage is sheer vandalism.  There is so much of this going on all over Christchurch.  It's so much easier to destroy things than to create them...

6th October 2012 - I've written further about the demolition of this building:

(1)  Mike Hewson is the artist / photographer who created the giant mixed media art installations entitled 'Homage to Lost Spaces" which adorned Cranmer Court over recent months:
  • Mike Hewson's own site on which he has displayed these artworks.  Click through the collection of images to find the Cranmer Court ones.
(2)  You can read more about the demolition here:  
Although the text of the articles is nearly identical the video footage is different.
(3)  Historic background:
My other stories about the earthquakes and their aftermath can be found via the link below:

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