Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Memories on Madras

During a break in the recent Music & Crisis conference someone approached me and asked how the rebuild was going.
'Rebuild?' I laughed. 'We're not up to rebuilding yet, we're still in the demolition phase.'

And every week, it seems, another notable building gets added to the demolition list, some to predictable outcry and plaintive petitions wanting signatures. Other petitions have already been sent off in protest

However, on Monday we reached a milestone - the reopening of Madras Street, from Tuam St onwards. Traffic was reportedly busy all day long, and has been ever since too. But I wanted to walk not drive, so I could take some pictures and contemplate the empty spaces at my leisure.

The journey started at C4 for a compulsory coffee, after which I headed towards the freshly-opened roadway.
It's the latest craze in inner-city abandoned sites - the open-air basement bath-house. 

You can see Alice in Videoland in the distance, through the former site of Edward Gibbon, which used to sell shiny new bathroom fittings. I remember wandering through there when we were faced with sudden bathroom renovations in our old blue house (hot water leak, rotten floors, fun times).
^June 2011

The fences and cordon exit-point have all been moved, and the trucks now rumble along Lichfield St on their way out of the CBD, laden with the rubble from yet another demo job.
My friend Adele's former Whare store, 
next to the new cordon exit point on Lichfield St.

There's a lot of empty spaces down Madras St now, and it can be hard remembering what used to stand there. The road itself is only a single lane which, if the IRD chicane is anything to go by, would make an excellent street racing circuit when it grows up.
 Looking north

Looking south

And why the swerve? Why does this newly reopened through-route have such a kinky path?
Because the 5 year-old IRD building has recently been added to the demolition list.

You can see why none of us really feel like we're in reconstruction mode yet - the powers-that-be (& there are many) are still busy deciding what's too damaged and/or too expensive to save. 
Heh. Yeah right.

And if it's slated for demolition then it's inherently unsafe and so we must shuffle to the right as we drive (or walk) along, protected by a thin wire mesh fence.
The IRD chicane meanders through a barren site that used to be home to a grand old church, while the plastic curb-side sign is all that's left of the car dealership across the road.

Along this route there are old sacred sites, and then there are new ones, like this...

CTV site, overlooked by the doomed IRD building

It took me a while before I moved on from here. I stood next to the fence, my mind cycling through images of the CTV offices & studios on the ground floor. Back when I was president of Elmwood Players, I'd often appear on the lifestyle magazine show, City Life, to promote our latest theatrical offering & give away some tickets. I thought of the many people I knew who worked there over the years - not only those who perished in February when the building collapsed, but also those who are still very much alive, still waiting along with the rest of us for things to get sorted out. So many things. So many decisions. So many lives in limbo.

As I turned to head back towards my car, I spotted something on a fence that made me glad I chose to walk.

It's little things like this that help us get through each day in this broken city. These handmade signs of encouragement may seem a little cheesy or sentimental at times, but with the kind of barren landscape that now surrounds us, they're sorely needed. Now, if only they came with free chocolate, they'd be perfect.


  1. Wonderful Post, I will be back in Chch in June, haven't been there since February 2011.

  2. You may find the emptiness and lack of landmarks more than a little unsettling. We've watched it over time and it's still strange, I can't imagine how it will seem to you...

    Have an emergency supply of chocolate & tissues on hand at all times. Good luck :)

    1. Thanks Kris,I arrived in Chch the Monday before the EQ as my dad passed away on the Friday.
      My mum has found it really hard to go back into the city as the church she was married in has gone, places she worked as a teenager gone etc.
      One of my biggest fears will be going into a shopping centre. I know after the EQ I went in and out of the supermarket in record time :)

  3. Such a beautiful post for such an unfortunate event..

    -Bronx Shower Doors
    Shower Doors Bronx