Previously: on board the Interislander ferry to cross New Zealand’s Cook Strait from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island.
There are cheaper or faster ways to travel between Wellington and Christchurch. But I love boats, and I love trains. So, an alternative is a trip with KiwiRail Scenic Journeys, combining boat and train. After 3.5 hours, the ferry across Cook Strait arrives in Picton at 1140am. I make my way out of the ferry terminal, and walk the short path to the train station nearby. My luggage on the ferry is automatically transferred onto the train, as I’ve paid for both legs of the trip in its entirety.
The sight of overhead cranes.
The clang of jackhammers.
The constant rumble of dump trucks filled with debris.
The dust clouds surrounding sites slated for demolition or new buildings under construction.
After four earthquakes since 2010, over half of the buildings in Christchurch’s Central Business District (CBD) were destroyed or have been condemned; the number I got from informal conversations was 70 to 80 percent. The expected cost to the local economy and for reconstruction will be in the billions of dollars. These are staggering numbers. Before reconstruction can begin, there are buildings to take down, and mountains of rubble to take away.
The Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu is a location I’d wanted to visit, after reading about the building and its art collection.
The 22 February 2011 earthquake was one of four major tremors (each at least magnitude 6) to strike the coastal Canterbury region within a span of 14 months. The cost to human lives and infrastructure was extensive. After the 22 February 2011 earthquake, the Art Gallery building was used as the central staging point for emergency and recovery operations. Suffering minor structural damage, the Art Gallery is closed for repairs until sometime in 2013.
In July 2012, I traveled by ferry and train from Wellington to Christchurch to begin my time on the South Island. I made my way to the Art Gallery, and sure enough, the place was closed. Fortunately, the building is outside of the cordoned no-go red zone.
The building is a beautiful sweeping glass structure with elegance, clear light, and curves. I took the opportunity to photograph the building in afternoon light as well as sunset’s light, and it’s easy to see why the Art Gallery is now one of the most recognized buildings in the city.
It’s important that a key building remains standing and visible, and continues to provide an vibrant artistic and cultural venue for the city of Christchurch.