It is good to see that Christchurch has kicked off the post-quake blues and is fighting back. The shops have reopened, the schools will be back on Monday, the water is fit to drink once more, and even the CheeseMongers shop looks like it might be saved. Once they’ve got their city scrubbed up and the trains working again, perhaps its time to take a scenic trip down there and spend some tourist dollars to help their economy.

Meanwhile, a group of young architectural graduates have bandied together to set up a Design Competition called Ideas for Christchurch – competition closes Sept 25th, so you’d better get drawing.

“Choose your strategy, construct an argument, share a notion, indulge in joyful play, fight against or reach towards. Scale is open: form a strategic vision for the entire city; reconsider a hard hit suburb; preserve a local dairy. Salvage heritage and character, design temporary infills, sustainable developments, urban parks/reserves, inner-city living, a new typology of housing, a city of skyscrapers, a city of pickles… whatever you find interesting. We want ideas, ideas to stimulate interest and establish discussion to achieve the best for Christchurch.

Design, plan, write, draw, paint, model, dream… just share what you value and deliver it in an A3 digital format to Submit as often as you want, as a group or as an individual; identify yourself or remain anonymous.”

Ideas for Christchurch – Click Here

Meanwhile in Wellington, what to do about our very own looming disaster? We’ve always known it would happen sometime, now it just seems like we’re tempting fate to leave it on the back burner. Even Mayor Kerry has commented to much the same degree:

“Mayor Prendergast says she would ask staff to canvas a number of issues including whether the Council should:
* revisit the review of the quake-prone buildings policy with a view to tightening the deadlines again
* seek relaxation, where appropriate, of heritage rules to allow more latitude and flexibility in strengthening work. This could include the replacement of heavy masonry features like parapets or chimneys with replicas built from light materials like glass-fibre, timber or carbon-fibre.
* consider changes to District Plan rules to allow the demolition of some older buildings with less heritage value
* look at rule changes to force some building owners, if they can’t afford to strengthen, to remove heavy and dangerous features like parapets and chimneys from the roofs and facades of some buildings
* increase grant funding to help more building owners complete strengthening work.
The Council’s ongoing quake-prone programme has identified about 3800 mainly older commercial and multi-unit apartment buildings around the city as potentially quake-prone under the more stringent definitions in the revised Building Act 2004. Council engineers and consultants are about halfway through the process of either removing buildings from the quake-prone list or informing the owners that strengthening work is necessary.
“They have extrapolated that around 600 buildings around the city may need strengthening,” says Mayor Prendergast. “This is a difficult situation and a real challenge. My preference is that these buildings are not demolished to the extent that the city loses a lot of its soul. At the same time, I don’t want to see lives put at risk.”

One of our contributors, Sav, has suggested that funding could come from the EarthQuake Commission – seeing as they have a fund of some $16 billion apparently, perhaps they could help fund a bit more pro-active strengthening of buildings in the mean time? Someone else I spoke to suggested that what we really needed was a really big rubber stamp to highlight the buildings that were at risk. Would people use them so willingly if they thought they might fall down? Perhaps all buildings that have already been seismically strengthened should get a big tick like the Heart Foundation do with Healthy Eating foods:

Perhaps those that don’t, should get a warning sign plastered onto their heritage facade:

These could be applied to buildings at risk of losing their religion heritage, such as these charming mock-ups:

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed that these signs are slightly larger than the previous notices that have been placed by the Council. Please note: this is not to say that these particular buildings shown here are unstrengthened, or in danger of falling – only the Council and their consulting engineers know that to any truthful degree. These ones here may be just fine. But they’re, let’s say, a representation of what might be an “at risk” building in Wellington (with thanks to Alan Wylde for the original photos).

Whatever is left of the Historic Places Trust (either about to have a rebirth, or a funeral, depending on your point of view) will have a pretty good idea too.
There are of course other signs that could be installed on buildings here: for those buildings that seem to be a little uncared for, we could have something like this:

But then I think that is all a bit mean and one sided. No doubt people would complain about loss of income if their building was declared to be a risk. The arbitrary nature of the damage in Christchurch has shown that some buildings have been damaged more than others, even when constructed in a similar manner. The only definite statement that seems to have rung true is that if buildings are constructed to the modern building standards, then they seem to have been through the quake unscathed. Or, if you’re a Peter Beaven fan, build in a full Gothic style, as that did pretty well too.

But we’re short on Goths and Gothics up here right now, so we might just have to stick with the modern, as well as the heritage restorations. However, potential disuse due to potential future collapse shouldn’t be the only reason we should avoid some buildings. Some buildings are just too ugly, too badly designed, too plain hideous to look at – and they shouldn’t go unpunished either. Here’s a selection of possible buildings with possible slogans:

It’s just a selection of possibilities, and maybe you will have a better idea – if so, send us your comments, or if you have a picture, send it in to our contact email address. In the mean time we’ve prepared a simple cut-out-and-keep version just for you: