Christchurch NZ moves back inside ‘the Square’
15 Jul 2013
Christchurch’s much-loved Cathedral Square has been liberated - the rebuild cordon is officially history and locals and visitors are returning to the city’s heart as the South Island city takes a significant step forward in recovery.
With Cathedral Square open to public access, Christchurch City Council has launched the Transitional Square project which will see the central city area transformed into a welcoming public space for vibrant art installations and performances, with new seating, facilities, and landscaping.
Since the cordon was removed, crowds of weekend and week-day pedestrians have been taking the opportunity to revisit the Square putting new life back into the city centre for the first time since the damaging February 2011 earthquake.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker welcomed the reopening saying "We can now start thinking inside the square and restoring it as a focal point of activity."
Parker said that it was important to set the right tone in creating a welcoming area that represented the history of the Square and was "sympathetic to the scale of the disaster and the rebuild job ahead."
Cathedral Square is the iconic image of Christchurch - an image that was destroyed with the partial collapse of Christ Church Cathedral as a result of the February 22 earthquake in 2011.
The revival and re-opening of Cathedral Square as a safe place to visit is a major milestone in the process of re-building the city and inviting tourists and visitors to come back.
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said: "As the heart of Christchurch and the iconic image of our city, we are delighted that Cathedral Square will once again be buzzing with life and activity. This is a major step forward for the city’s recovery and should give people further confidence to come back and visit.
International visitor numbers are steadily increasing with summer 2012/2013 at least 20% ahead of the previous year, Hunter said.
Since the quakes Christchurch has been named by Lonely Planet as one of its 2013 Top 10 cities. The influential travel publisher says Christchurch "is rising from the rubble … with a breath-taking mix of spirit, determination and flair" and forecast that this would be an intriguing year for visitors to join the rebirth of Christchurch.
Collections and installations
The revitalised Square will showcase a varied collection of artworks and installations including a series of large panels on fences that explore early Māori heritage.
Artists Chris Heaphy and Sara Hughes were invited to create the artworks to recognise both the past and the future of the high-profile area, and their response is bold, vibrant optimistic art designed to activate and frame the area.
Information on each artist and what inspired their work will be on display along with interpretation panels representing the life of the Square over time. The installations will be moved and reconfigured as building progress and access needs in the area change.
Pop-ups - sprinkled through the city - continue to play a vital role in inspiring and maintaining the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene. Gap Filler, a post-earthquake arts movement, has been a major player by occupying and creating arty gathering places where locals and visitors can meet, enjoy and participate in an evolving catalogue of art experiences.
In addition to Cathedral Square, the first fully restored building in Christchurch’s Arts Centre - the Registry - is now complete and has re-opened to the public. The Arts Centre of Christchurch is an iconic collection of 23 heritage buildings constructed in the Gothic Revival style.
Close by New Regent St is another iconic Christchurch setting - a vibrant collection of shops in Spanish Mission style dating from the 1930s and listed as Category 1 with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The precinct of small retail shops, which reopened in April, is a popular gathering place with open pedestrian areas, planters and busy streetwise cafés.
Shoppers and buskers continue to populate Christchurch’s most recent icon - the Re:START Mall’s now famous lines of colourful layered container structures. The pop-up retail precinct of 40 retail outlets includes some of New Zealand’s top boutique brands, cafés and outdoor restaurants, and was the first part of the central city to reopen to the public in December 2011.
Meanwhile, a few streets away on a prominent city corner, another icon is rising - the amazing Transitional Cathedral designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is approaching completion.
Dubbed ‘the cardboard cathedral’, the yet-to-be completed cathedral has already created significant international interest. The classical lines of the unique structure are supported by a series of cardboard pillars and feature a striking stained glass window.
The new cathedral would be "a must-see attraction for visitors and another symbol of the creativity and innovation that people can expect to see in the new Christchurch," Hunter said.
With construction on the new Avon River Park due to start soon, and the planning of new retail and hospitality precincts well advanced, Hunter believes that Christchurch is on the path to becoming "one of the best small cities in the world."
Christchurch’s accommodation capacity has increased significantly since the beginning of 2013, and there are now more than 5000 commercial accommodation guest rooms available.
In the central city, The Rendezvous Hotel reopened with 171 rooms in early May, and a new 155-room Ibis Hotel opened in late 2012. The Novotel Cathedral Square (154 rooms) and The Heritage are scheduled for August 2013.
Heritage Christchurch's Old Government Building (OGB) wing is another heritage building. Designed by Joseph Clarkson Maddison and opened in 1913, the OGB is registered as a Category I building on the Historic Places Trust register.
Christchurch now has more than 550 cafés, restaurants and bars operating, and the heritage tramway through the central city is expected to start running towards the end of 2013.
The popular Christchurch Gondola on the Port Hills has recently reopened. The gondola transports visitors into the hills for massive views across the city, Banks Peninsula, Pacific Ocean and the sprawling Canterbury Plains and mountain peaks of the Southern Alps.
One of the best ways for visitors to explore the city is either on foot or on two wheels. Tourism operator Christchurch Bike Tours has launched a two-hour guided experience that showcases the changes and the future of the 21st century city. Biking around the city with a passionate local is great way to feel the 'buzz' and see the creativity being used to rebuild a great modern city.
The re-opening of Cathedral Square and the Registry follows the removal of the Red Zone cordon, another major milestone in the city’s recovery.
On the final day, The New Zealand Defence Force marched down Worcester Boulevard to officially end their longest ever domestic deployment. They were thanked in person by Prime Minister John Key for their duty to Christchurch.
The New Zealand Defence Force manned the cordon around Christchurch’s central city for 857 days following the 2011 earthquake. With the official cordon now gone, large parts of the city - which were for so long only able to be viewed at a distance - are now open to the public.
Background: The Christchurch Arts Centre
For over a century, the site was home to Canterbury College, and then the University of Canterbury. Since 1978, the site has been held in Trust for the benefit of the people of Canterbury as a place where arts, culture and education are fostered, promoted and celebrated.
The rebuild process has thoroughly strengthened and restored the Registry, while adding modern services to improve access and use of the building.
Visitors to the Registry will be able to walk through the building and experience a tangible part of the vision for the future of the Arts Centre.
Background: New Regent Street
Christchurch's historic New Regent St was built in the 1930s in the distinctive Spanish Mission Revival style that was popular in that era. The buildings are listed as a Category 1 building with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)
The complex of 40 shops on individual titles was one of the few large scale building projects undertaken in the South Island during the Great Depression.
When New Regent Street was opened on 1 April 1932, the then Christchurch Mayor Daniel Sullivan described it as "the most beautiful street in New Zealand."
The two storey buildings have decorative facades featuring shaped gables, medallions, tiled window hoods and barley-twist columns. The unique streetscape displays a rare uniformity of design, form, colour and scale with an architectural style and continuous facade that gives it high public recognition and landmark significance.
Background: Re:START Mall
Re:START pop-up city mall - a colourful downtown retail precinct with around 40 stores, including High Street brands, upmarket boutiques, cafés and a department store - was the first reopening in central Christchurch.
Created around courtyards and recreational spaces, the mall is a collection of brightly-coloured shipping containers with glass frontages and balconies, and set beside Christchurch’s iconic Ballantynes department store.
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