here aren’t a huge number of bright sides to living in a seriously damaged city, but one of them definitely is the excitement of seeing repaired buildings and brand new buildings opened. Harvestbird and I got to see three today, all within the space of a couple of hours.
First was Cunningham House, the Victorian glasshouse in the botanic gardens. They’ve finally completed repairs, so it’s been reopened to the public. It was so lovely to be able to explore it again (even if we couldn’t see where they’d made any repairs!). The big tropical trees seemed to all be intact (not that I’d probably have known if any were missing, but there were no glaringly obvious gaps), but some of the statuary was gone (I assume damaged beyond repair), including the one which Littlemaeve famously released The Greek Goddess on during the 2009 convention.
Across the lawn from Cunningham House is a much more modern glasshouse, just opened. It combines a plant nursery (not open to the public, but with glass walls you can see inside and watch the staff working) and the garden’s visitor centre. The visitor centre part isn’t huge, but it has a interesting wee display on the history of gardens in Christchurch (including a section on the plants cultivated in pre-European times), quite a large cafe, and a gift shop I could happily have spent a lot of money in (lots of V&A-branded stuff).
Then over to the Arts Centre, where they’ve reopened another building, the old gymnasium. The structure of the building (which used to house the Academy Cinema) had been mostly hidden for the past few decades by an ugly modern extension, which has been demolished, so it actually looks much better than before the earthquakes. I was very impressed with how they’d done the inside, with very minimal refurbishment – there’s mis-matched layers of paint where internal walls must have been, and spray-painted markings that I assume are survey marks from when they were assessing the earthquake damage. They’ve kept the old court markings on the floor too. The new tenants are going to be an alternative theatre and a circus company, so the unfinished look will work perfectly.
I loved this so-very-Christchurch sculpture outside:
The writing on the pillar reads “We’re still living here”, and on the reverse was “Ahi kā”, which refers to the signal fires burnt to show occupation of land. You don’t really get it from the photo, but in person there’s a real feeling of the rubble being protectively gathered around the pillar. Very cool.