On Thursday last week, I had the opportunity to shoot for CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) inside the CHCH Red Zone – the cordoned city centre closed off to the public, while demolition continues after the Feb 22nd 2011 quake (and of course all the subsequent shakes as well!).
It was quite an insight, not having seen the scale of demolition in the city centre first hand. The city isn’t big – we are no New York or London. Yet within the familiar streets that were once part of daily life, I was left thinking, ‘Where am I?’. Very few of the usual reference points remain.
Seeing the demolition of the Grant Thornton building was something else. That was a building I had previously photographed from the rooftop for an ANZAC Day service and promotional shots of Cathedral Square. To think it is being clawed away, to eventually to all become landfill. In tech speak I was told this was a ‘dirty demolition’ – the whole structure is demolished as seen, complete with fittings, furniture etc. The risk to strip out first I guess is too great to the safety of workers. Though you can see later the PWC building is being stripped bare prior to demolition – a ‘clean demo’!
We headed up the Forsyth Barr building, noted for the complete collapse of its internal stairwell on Feb 22nd. Now access is via external scaffolding up 19th floors.
Views over the city are exceptional, though at the back of your mind is the ever wary thought, I hope there isn’t a wobble when I am up here. As it turns out, we did have a moderate shake again the next day at the same time we were up there!
Internally some offices remain exactly as left when evacuated on Feb 22nd. It is very eerie – it looks like the hand of god has just wiped computers from desks. Filing cabinets and Lundia systems lie bent, spewing their contents over the floor. Wrapped lunches sit on desks, besides lipstick, ties, high heeled shoes. All abandoned in the haste to leave a damaged building. You can only imagine how that felt on the day of the quake, being so high above the city looking down on carnage, constantly shaken by ongoing tremors. A yellowed, weathered newspaper dated Feb 22nd lies atop a tearoom bench, testament to a snapshot in time.