Friday, May 18, 2012

Scenes from a mall

For the last month I've been spending 2-3 days a week working at the Quake Box in City Mall. This little stint has now come to an end - the Quake Box gets moved to a new location this weekend.

It's been... interesting. So here, in no particular order, are some random incidents and photos from the central city in recent times.


It's one thing to know that there's a lot of demolition taking place, but it's quite another to have it happening right in front of you. It was the soundtrack I hadn't anticipated at all... the crunch, crunch, crash of buildings being ripped apart floor by floor. This one, right opposite our site, was the entertainment for my first shift.

There are no shortage of demolition sites around the inner city. This is one I passed by every morning on my way into the mall. A fortuitously timed red light allowed me to capture this shot of Scales House midway through the demo process.

We are surely the biggest sandpit in the world. Every toy you ever played with as a kid is here in super-size form. I think the tallest structures we have these days in Shakeytown are the various cranes dotted around (what's left of) the CBD.


...make up most of the people visiting the Re:Start Mall. At times we've been an unofficial tourist kiosk, dispensing information about bus routes, demolition statistics, earthquakes (of course), and listening to grand but misguided ideas about documentaries, public transport, and rebuilding priorities.
We've met lots of lovely people - some who have been regular visitors to the city and others who have never visited before - and almost all of them have been shocked by the sheer scale of the devastation & demolition. The emptiness. The closed roads. The fenced-off city. They don't hear about it on the news anymore, and the extent (& cost) of the damage caused by continuing aftershocks has not really filtered through the international media.
All of them were fascinated by the Quake Box project and its goals, even if a few people were disappointed that we weren't a) showing movies or b) an earthquake simulator.


We're at that time of year when even though the sun is shining, the wind will cut right through you, and Cashel Mall has to be the most bone-chilling wind tunnel around.
 approaching weather, viewed through the Bridge of Remembrance

When it wasn't the rain keeping everyone away, it was the fiendishly cold wind. Most of the inner city's population on any given day consisted of tourists, retail staff or shoppers on a mission to get in, get it done, & get the hell out of the cold by going straight back home.
cue the tumbleweeds...

On the whole, everyone we've talked to has been very impressed with the container shopping precinct and its bright, cheery colours. The trouble is, once you've wandered around the retail area and peered through the fences, there's nothing else to do. It will be such a long time before there is much else to see apart from a flagship department store and a few novelty container shops.

At least our next Quake Box location - Eastgate Mall - should have more of a residential population to draw from, and it's an opportunity to hear from a whole new group of people. I'll be doing a couple more shifts to train up the next batch of Quake Box workers before I leave the project to concentrate on other things.

Filling in the gaps (1)

During my first shift, a young tourist asked me where he could go to see the Cathedral. At that stage, the only option was to walk along the river to Worcester St, where you could stand at the cordon edge and look towards Cathedral Square. If he'd been there a few days later, we could have shown him this view instead:
A reminder of what used to be, now decorating the plywood that boards up a damaged shop.

But there's another way to see what's being/been demolished... as long as you have the right gadget.

Filling in the gaps (2)

On Tuesday, a couple of guys from the HITLab were in the mall, demonstrating one of their latest Augmented Reality (AR) applications.
Built for the Android operating system, the CityViewAR app combines interactive map views (pictured above), and 3D models (pictured below) that show what buildings used to stand on now-empty sites.

It's a lot of fun, and so very useful! Even in a small area like City Mall, it's hard to remember exactly what used to be where. The app is available for free download from the Android marketplace (search: CityViewAR) but a word of warning - it won't work on all Android devices. It seemed to work fine on the HITLab Samsung tablet (although the touch-response wasn't always great) but it will over-tax some older Android phones. I managed to download and install it onto my HTC Magic, which is a few years old now, but every time I open CityViewAR, the app locks up and sometimes my entire phone crashes. Oh well. It's a fun app but not quite a good enough excuse to buy a whole new phone... I've got a house to build after all. Speaking of which...



All ready now for the foundation to be poured early next week!

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