Monday, November 21, 2011

A New Heart

Some weeks ago, like 20,000 other Cantabrians, I went into Cashel Mall - or what had been Cashel Mall, to check out the new Re-Start Project - a temporary central shopping mall of 27 stores located in shipping containers, designed to give city residents a central shopping zone post-earthquakes.
Expecting crowds, I had avoided the place for the first few days.When I finally went in to visit, I held my breath, not knowing what to expect.

I was pleasantly surprised - delighted almost - by the colour and composition of this temporary shopping zone. Not as much hospitality (ie cafes, bars) as I expected and hoped for but very well done nonetheless.
Bold shapes, bold colours, bold combinations.And a bold choice of stores. I'm not sure they'll all do well in terms of retail turnover but in the lead-up to Christmas and in face of enormous curiosity about inner city Christchurch, they should make enough to pay the rent. Long term, I think some of the more upmarket stores may struggle 
But let's be honest, after major earthquakes and more than 8,000 aftershocks over 15 months, Christchurch residents need somewhere bright and cheerful. Whether or not they head into Re-Start to buy high-end shoes and designer clothes or just a cup of coffee, becomes a little irrelevant. It's just nice to have a break from all the grey, all the demoltion and ruin and all the dust and filth.
I sat there for some time enjoying that colour and the juxtaposition of shapes, the sitting of the new in front of the old, the scarred backs of remaining buildings acting as a backdrop to Re-Start's innovative design. I like the materials too. Anyone who has read this blog regularly over the last few years will know I have a bit of a thing for unusual materials - corrugated iron for instance; and the use of shipping containers in post-quake Christchurch is nothing short of brilliant. I'm enjoying seeing them propped up both as giant barricades and as supports to faltering facades. I like the way they've been adapted for other temporary uses on now vacant lots - as cafes, dairies and temporary stores and warehouses. And I especially like the way they've been brushed bright at Re-Start.
Because at the end of the day, I'm sick of piles of rubble.I'm tired of seeing yet another building crumble.I'm (almost) bored by diggers, cranes and lorries.I'm sick of dust and dirt and grey liquefaction seeping into everything.It's nice to be able to sit awhile in Re-Start and pretend that this - the waiting tractors and lorries, the cranes and the piles of rubble - aren't waiting just a few paces around the corner!

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