A series of earthquakes between 2010 and 2011 devastated New Zealand’s second largest city, Christchurch. An estimated 1,000 buildings in the city’s CBD came down or were subsequently pulled down. (Stop for a second and try to count to 1,000. Each number represents an entire building!) The sheer scale of destruction can only be comprehended in person. Over two-thirds of the city is still rubble.
But rising from the piles of crushed concrete are cranes, and with them, a flow of new buildings, fueled by about NZ$25 billion of insurance funding. In true frontier fashion, the businesses which have survived have shown determination to get through the tough times. New enterprises are opening each week and people have rallied in support. A new energy flows through this city of regrowth and change.
In May 2015, I visited the city to check in on its revitalisation. What follows is our guide of some of the places to go and things to see while you visit what must be considered one of the world’s most interesting cities right now.
The place to start – and perhaps end – your visit to Christchurch is C1 Espresso cafe. This cafe is like few others and it leads the city’s charge with its enthusiasm to build something bigger and better following the quakes. Owner Sam Crosfkey set about rebuilding his cafe to be the first to re-open, and it is world-class in every sense of the word.
He installed pneumatic tubes to deliver hamburgers to guests from the kitchen to the table. A moveable bookshelf opens as a secret door to the restrooms. And he has pioneered his own range of tea, complete with a take-home stash in every box.
C1 Espresso even makes its own range of fruit drink, grown and bottled in Samoa and stocked across the country. This cafe has memorable coffee and food and an ambiance that drips with understated cool.
Just opened is Supreme Supreme cafe. With the credentials of being one of New Zealand’s largest coffee suppliers, Supreme Supreme’s cup of Joe scratches your caffeine spot in just the right place. Filling a ’50s building with wood-lined minimal industrial styling, the cafe is sure to become a staple for locals and tourists alike.
The Transitional Cardboard Cathedral, just across from the interesting New Regents street, is a must see. Built pro-bono by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban for only NZ$5.9 million, the building is airy, light and memorable.
More than any other temporary measure since the quakes, this building has driven visitors to the city.
The Tannery Boutique Retail and Arts Emporium is Christchurch’s newest shopping and entertainment destination. The boutique shops are all local New Zealand success stories, and the craft beer warrants more than just one!
While it’s a little bit of a journey, it’s certainly worthwhile visiting.
Re:START is another innovation from a city forced to look at materials in new ways. Built entirely from shipping containers, this outdoor shopping mall carries with it the symbol of a city being reborn.
Seemingly at every corner of the city there is some of the finest street art in the southern hemisphere. Forming part of the Spectrum Street Art exhibition, the work being done by George Shaw clearly shows the power of art to transform otherwise decayed urban streetscapes.
Christchurch is a city for walking, discovering and experiencing the energy literally rising daily from near total collapse.
Find out more at christchurchnz.com.