Some of you that still have a subscription to Dead Tree will have seen a story about me in the Press this morning. It’s about a campaign I’m starting that I’m calling “Those Left Standing”. The aim is to lobby for some of the remaining buildings that exist in the CBD – especially those within the frame – to be saved, renovated, and incorporated into the frame, rather than needlessly demolished. Here is the Those Left Standing manifesto:
In the immediate aftermath of the quakes, and then the June aftershocks, a number of buildings needed to be cordoned off because they were hazardous to people nearby. Now, more than 3 years later, and with the cordon fences largely down, it is clear that these buildings don’t pose an immediate danger to human life. That means that any argument to demolish them is likely to be economic, rather than safety.
There are a number of buildings in the frame area that are heritage. The Majestic Church / Theatre is one of them. But there are other buildings here which has little or no interest from a “heritage” point of view – but are still critical to the history of the city. I want to work with the strong heritage advocacy groups, but also want to work to preserve buildings which don’t qualify due to their age, or lack of architectural pedigree.
One of the unspoken atrocities of the earthquake / rebuild has been the horrific amount of waste created by demolitions. Some of it has been poured into the harbor (illegally) at Lyttelton, most of the rest is now in a massive mound at the Burwood landfill. I believe that the true environmental cost of demolition is not being paid by the companies removing the rubble from the CBD – and that if this cost was presented to these organizations, then a much greater effort would have been made to retain a number of buildings. RE:Kindle, and it’s spin-off, the Whole House Re-Use, have raised important questions about our attitude to waste.
I don’t know if you’ve wandered around the CBD lately, but there isn’t a hell of a lot of building going on. Wouldn’t it be quicker for us to try and refurbish an existing building, which might take 3 or 6 months, than the government acquiring it, bowling it, flogging it off to a developer and then waiting for something to happen? This is the case with the Oak’s SmartStay, on the corner of Liverpool and Cashel Sts. This isn’t much of a building – and I say that from experience, having lived directly opposite it, I got to look out at it every morning. However, it is a building less than 10 years old that could be renovated and made safe – and that would bring 100’s of apartment rooms onto the market. This could help ease the housing crisis, by providing rooms for many of the workers who are coming in to help on the rebuild. It would also bring more people back into the centre of town, making it a safer, more vibrant place to live. Instead, the government are acquiring the building, demolishing it, then selling the land off to a developer so they can build … apartments. Madness.
A lot of the discussion about the Blueprint and the buildings in it forgets that no building is permanent. The Oaks SmartStay may not be the nicest building, and may not fit the vision that the government has outlined. But if we did choose to save it, to reuse it, there is nothing to say that this is a permanent decision. It could be a short-to-medium term solution, for 10 years, to house people to work on the city until there are other places for them. By then, Gerry’s beloved market may be functioning better than it is now, and a developer may decide that they can think of something better to do with the site.
What ties this altogether is a vision for the city. Gerry has one vision – he wants to create a clean slate, to pull down all the “dungers” so he can stamp his own vision on the city. He wants to purify the frame, removing businesses he doesn’t like (strip clubs), even though they are perfectly legal. 18 months after the Blueprint came out, the only things happening in this city are outside of Gerry’s area of control. We, as a city and a country, don’t have enough money to build the city of Gerry’s dreams. We need to be more realistic. Why demolish a repairable swimming pool to build a children’s playground, when you could integrate the playground around the pool? Why not try and integrate the existing buildings into the vision of the frame? Not only would it save money – money that we don’t have – but it would say so much about who we are, and what we’ve been through. Instead of wiping all these buildings and all of their history off the map, let’s preserve some of them.
I’ve got some of my architect friends working on designs for what these buildings could look like. I’m keen to have people get involved, so if you have any ideas, drop me a line in the comments or via twitter. In the mean time, here are some brilliant photos of the Bicycle Thief by Doug Richardson, one of the buildings in the frame that I believe could have been saved, and would have been an asset to the area.
UPDATE: here is me talking about the campaign with Lucas on bFM: