Saturday, 6 October 2012

STOP the demolition of Cranmer Court!

My previous article about the demolition of Cranmer Court was written in haste - and with a degree of shock - as I heard the news that demolition had begun: 
It was with a sense of rising dismay and anger that I read this mornings article by Lorraine North in The Press:
I now join others in saying this work should STOP NOW -
! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

What on earth is wrong with the people who are making these decisions?  What on earth are they thinking about?  In its fenced off and enclosed state it has stood as a danger to no one, nor an impediment to any but CERA and demolition crews.

And what do the people of Christchurch actually want for their future?  The relative costing of repair and restoration for Cranmer Court has been estimated at between $30 to 40 million.  Unfortunately, prior to the start of demolition sufficient funding had not been found, but this is no reason to suppose that it may not be found in the future.  

Comparative costs of new buildings should be kept in mind.  Here are two examples of new building projects:

Firstly, here is the new New World supermarket in Opawa which cost $20 million.  Here it is:

We are very glad to have this excellent supermarket back in business, but it cannot be claimed that the building is a thing of beauty or ever likely to be part of our cultural heritage.

Secondly, here are details of a building for Amherst Properties Ltd, which has now been given the go-ahead:
An earlier Press article gives more detail.  Click through on the link below and you can see an image of what it is expected to look like:
For reasons best known to themselves, the editors of The Press have published rather more information in the print version of the paper which I have here in front of me.  That article discloses that the building is expected to cost $20 million.  Amherst managing director is quoted as saying that:
the proposed building had been designed to a high standard ... and represents "an interesting, fresh approach to building within the cultural precinct".
I'm sure I wish them well in their venture, but...

When I look at the appearance of that building and contrast it with this beautiful old stone fa├žade of Cranmer Court the addition of one and the loss of the other fills me with grey dismay and deep foreboding.  

Approval for the development has been given by the Joint Management Board, otherwise referred to as JMB, which is comprised of representatives of the Canterbury Earthquake Recover Authority (CERA), the Christchurch City Council, and Ngai Tahu.  Their authority comes from regulations set up by the Christchurch Development Unit (CCDU) which is part of  CERA.

If this is the sort of prioritising of cultural values held the JMB I fear for the city's future.  

I have always had strong reservations about the CCDU's blueprint for the city's redevelopment which I see as isolationist both in its initial presentation as a fait-accompli, which allows for no opposing dialogue with landholders, residents or the wider community, and in its much-trumpeted green frame, which looks to me like a barrier to its connection with the wider community rather than an embrace of it.  I fear that the new centre of the city may end up being like a heart transplant in danger of being rejected by the body it is meant to keep alive, or of taxing that body beyond its capabilities.  These are delicate, yet absolutely vital matters that have not been properly worked through. 

Political authority structures operating in Christchurch at present represent a tangled departure from democratic processes for no good reason that I have been able to discover.  I expect to write more on this subject in the future. 

Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that a degree of intelligence may yet prevail in relation to Cranmer Court and the senseless the destruction of its structure and the irreplaceable heritage building materials it contains be called to a halt.  Demolition is scheduled to run for at least two more months and there is yet time to save what is left.

Later news items:

Later note:
It's gone now - just another empty section.  Here is a video of the destruction:

You can find my other articles about the Earthquake aftermath via the link below:

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