Friday, December 31, 2010
Over the last few days I've been writing about Oamaru's stunning 19th century architecture (posts below) and all the while I've thought how lucky they've been not to have suffered the earthquake damage that has destroyed so much of inner city Christchurch over the last three months. I was out biking this morning and was both amused and saddened by this staircase protruding from the top of what's left of Manchester Courts. This was Manchester Courts about two months ago when the demolition crews moved in
(You can see more of the building in a previous post by clicking on Manchester Courts in the label line below this post).
It doesn't matter where you go in inner city Christchurch at the moment, you have to negotiate your way through and around road blocks, wire fences and lines of shipping containers - all the more so after the strong after-shocks that hit the city on Boxing Day.
Some of the city's finest heritage buildings are bruised and battered - but still standing - many with the help of bracing and scaffolding. Windows are boarded up and streets are narrowed by orange cones and barriers.
Earth Quake Commission staff have been working night and day to inspect city buildings and, with every batch of strong after-shocks (there have been over 4,000 since September 4's 7.1 quake), they often have to re-inspect structures they've already declared safe. After Boxing Day after-shocks, crews were inspecting all the buildings around Cathedral Square (above) to make sure the area would be safe (or otherwise) for the city's annual New Year's Eve party.
Christchurch Cathedral took another hit on Boxing Day. Although the building has been earthquake strengthened and is structurally sound, plaster finishes and architectural details have 'quivered and shivered' in the last three months, and finally, this week, stonemasons removed the cracked cross from the roof, loaded into a little truck and took it off for repair.
In a perverse kind of way, I have enjoyed roaming the city with my camera over the last three months. Nothing is static in any city; in Christchurch, in light of ongoing after-shocks, demolition, inspection and repair, it is even less so. And for every heartbreaking image of a destroyed, or demolished building, there are the quirky, amusing shots that always make me smile.... even 'Elvis' has been rocked off his feet on his balcony perch beside Manchester Courts on Manchester Street.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Nothing inspires me more than a great big brute of a church - and I'm talking about architecture here, not religion. Any regular visitor to this blog will know that I love church architecture and I've featured some stunning Australasian churches on this blog previously - click on Churches in the label line below if you're interested. Today, I'm giving you a peek through the doors of Oamaru's marvellous St Patrick's Basilica.
This hefty Catholic Church was designed by Dunedin architect, F.W Petre, who was well known for the beautiful churches - many featured on this blog (click on F.W.Petre) - he designed throughout the South Island of New Zealand. This one, located in Reed Street, Oamaru has a bulk and stature that befits a small town known for its handsome Victorian streetscapes, it's wealth of unique historic Oamaru stone buildings.
Like many large churches, St Patrick's was built in several stages - the first in 1893 and the last in 1918. At first glance, the interior seems austere and restrained compared to many, but when you look up at the beautiful coffered Renaissance ceiling and the great dome over the sanctuary, you can't help but admire the workmanship and the spendour of it all. The columns too, give the whole interior a sense of grandeur.
An austere little 1930s (?) concrete box where churchgoers can acquire their bibles and church paraphernalia.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Often, when I tell people one of my favourite New Zealand towns is Oamaru, I get blank or puzzled looks. It is, after all, a small place 80km south of Timaru and 12okm north of Dunedin, that most people bypass on State Highway 1. The population is around 13,000 and the town itself is every bit the slow, rural service centre that many joke about.
It's architecture though, is another matter entirely.
It has one of the finest collections of 19th century architecture - often neo-classical in style - in New Zealand.
So, for those of you who've never visited, or those who sweep through on the bypass and have never discovered 'the old town,' I thought I'd bring you this mini-picture parade, to give you an idea of 'the little Rome' that sits tucked away 'in the back of beyond.' And there's no finer place to start that on lower Thames Street. This is where you'll find a number of splendid buildings that pay homage to the discovery of local building material, limestone, in the 1850s. The two bank buildings (above) are among my favourites. The former Bank of New South Wales (right), was designed by Dunedin architect, Robert Lawson in 1883 and 100 years later, in 1983, it became home to the Forrester Gallery. Like it's mate, the National Bank (left) (also designed by Lawson and built in 1871 for the Bank of Otago), it features beautiful acanthus leaves on the capitals of its Corinthian columns.
This old beauty is the former Post Office, directly across the street from the above banks. It's now home to the Waitaki District Council. It was designed by Forrester and Lemon in 1883 - without the clocktower. This was added in 1903 by Thomas Forrester's son, John
Even if many people do see Thames Street, they often bypass Oamaru's Historic Precinct at the south end of the town. Many of the unique limestone giants here have been restored and now house local artisans or craftspeople, or are still being used for their original purposes - as pubs, wool stores or Bond stores. The handsome Criterion Hotel (above), dominates the corner of Tyne and Harbour Streets. It was designed in Victorian Italiannate style by Oamaru architects, Forrester and Lemon and was built in 1877. The hotel closed in 1906 when the district 'went dry' and re-opened as a bar in 1998.
The Oamaru Opera House meanwhile, is a showy monster in the middle of Thames Street - the main shopping street. Designed by architect J.M. Forrester, and built at a cost of around 10,600-pounds, it opened in 1907. The building has also housed the Oamaru Borough Council, the Council Chamber and assorted law offices. these days, like many of the town's buildings, it's lit at night in a range of changing colours.
This solid edifice - the Columba Presbyterian Church - is one of many other huge and stunning buildings that sit off the beaten track - down the side streets and up on the hill. In addition, Oamaru has several magnificent churches, a marvellous old Railway Station (1900), old hotels, several huge school complexes - Waitaki Girls' and Waitaki Boys' (attended by both my grandparents) chief among them; and many huge homesteads in and around the town. If you're interested in Victorian architecture, it's definitely worth spending a couple of days in the area. www.visitoamaru.co.nz www.historicoamaru.co.nz
Saturday, December 25, 2010
And after Christmas breakfast at the beach
Fresh Croissants, salmon, ham, cheesse
Chocolate croissants and grapes
The warm sun tickling the sand
Dogs running through the sand and surf
I'm back home in the cool
And whiling away the Christmas Hours. Christmas the way I love it.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
It rained yesterday and as I listened to that very special 'music' of rain on a corrugated iron roof, I sank into a reverie, a cluster of diverse memories all prompted by this endlessly useful stuff. I was reminded of just how useful a small, cast-off piece iron had been during the Christchurch earthquake back in September. Two days after the quake, I called in builders to remove my damaged chimney and as they gazed down into the hole left by the removed flue, they announced they'd have to come back with a piece of iron to make the roof water-tight. Never fear, I replied, I have just the thing - and sure enough, tucked away behind my garden shed, was an old piece of corrugated iron the perfect size. It's the way of things in New Zealand, certainly out in the countryside - everyone has a few bits of old corrugated iron stuffed away 'for a rainy day.'
I've written about corrugated iron and its place in the New Zealand (and Australian) building vernacular a number of times before and I still regularly stop to photograph corrugated iron buildings all around the country. It's not just the expressive materiality of the corrugated iron itself that attracts me, it's also the very form of farm buildings. I find something very comforting and sturdy about about old barns and sheds - maybe it's because I was brought up in a rural environment - and I particularly like farm buildings that have been 'patched together' with old, mismatched, re-used sheets of corrugated iron.
Not only is there a visual stimulus in that for me, a pleasing aesthetic, it also says so much about the industriousness and inventiveness of the New Zealand farmer. And as corrugated iron is used over and over again, it gathers a patina of previous histories - layers of paint and rust that allude to other lives and other places. I like that in a building. I often fantasise these days, of having the money to build a new home in the country - one that draws on the design of these old sheds and barns; one built of secure, modern, watertight materials and then overlaid with a crazy patchwork of old, weathered, multi-coloured sheets of iron. And inside - a practical modern home that belies its 'tatty' exterior.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Blenheim's Peppertree Lodge is named after the Pepper trees (Schinus molle) that line the driveway to this lovely Edwardian villa. Built in 1901, it sits back from the road at the south entrance to Blenheim, surrounded by waves of grapevines that have made the region famous.
I called into the Peppertree on my recent travels, to chat with owners, Werner and Heidi. It was mid-winter but the Peppertree was warm and inviting, each of its five guest rooms glowing. The home is set on 10acres and since settling in New Zealand, Swiss businessman Werner, has studied viticulture and now tends his own tiny boutique winery and olive grove at the front of the property. The large gardens are filled with large vegetable gardens and orchards, a small selection of cows and sheep; and together, Werner and Heidi produce their own olive oil, wine and assorted preserves. Each vintage of their Peppertree Chardonnay is labelled with distinctive labels, produced by leading local and New Zealand artists including Wellington's Michael Fowler and Blenheim artists, Clarry Neam and Betty Eaton.
Heidi has a background in hotel management and airline service in Switzerland and given that she and Werner have travelled extensively themselves, they know just when to leave their guests alone. Each of their five rooms is a large private retreat and guests have individual views into different parts of the garden. My pick is the large William Morris room (above), which features William Morris fabrics and a large bathroom, complete with clawfoot bath and a separate fireplace. And personally, I can't imagine anything nicer than stretching out in that bath with a good book and a glass of house Chardonnay, with the fireplace crackling a few feet away. www.thepeppertree.co.nz
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
On a recent visit to Auckland, I was very taken with this sculpture suspended over the Engineering Department of Auckland University in Symonds Street. I searched inside and out and asked several people but I was unable to find out who the work has been created by. If any readers know, perhaps you'd like to leave a short comment about who the artist might be?
On a separate occasion, wandering in the grey drizzle of a winter afternoon, I came upon "Flight Trainer for Albatross" by Greer Twiss. The first work commissioned by the Auckland City Sculpture Trust, it's part of the Waterfront Sculpture Trail, which currently includes seven works. It's not a work that I'm personally drawn to - I much prefer Michael Parekowhai's Britomart work and Dennis O'Connor's "Raupo Rap" in Viaduct Harbour - but I certainly sympathise with the conservation message it adddresses. The work is a metaphor for the support we need to give endangered birds like the albatross. Every year untold numbers are killed or maimed through trawling and netting at sea and while not all are killed directly, thousands are maimed and unable to fly - which leads to their death by starvation.