Tuesday, March 8, 2011


This morning's Press reports a $4 million gift towards the rebuilding of Christchurch Cathedral. Lots of money is being raised through efforts as diverse as celebrities giving concerts through to donations of small coins. It is moving that people are generous. It will be interesting to see how this generosity is dispersed. I hope the really needy receive good help. To be in a destroyed home on damaged land with an insurance policy that will not cover all costs of transferring to a similar quality home on better land must be heartbreaking. Even the best insurance policies do not cover the real costs of uprooting a home, to say nothing of the scramble to live while things are sorted out. Today's paper says 10,000 houses may be demolished. There are not 10,000 empty houses elsewhere in greater Christchurch ready for instant moving in.

I guess $4 million donated specifically to rebuilding the cathedral must be spent on that project. Hopefully much more than that will be available for people in need. It would be terrible to have a rebuilt cathedral in the middle of a city with people living in tents.

It would also be a challenge for goodwill and peace among all Canterbury and Westland Anglicans if the generosity of cathedral supporters means we have a brand (re)new(ed) cathedral and 25 other churches in various states of disrepair. Hopefully we can make some decisions which see the damaged parish churches repaired at reasonable cost, or replaced with better, 21st century friendly buildings, alongside whatever future our cathedral will have. The good news in some cases is that stone churches which leak and freeze in the winter can be replaced with warm, watertight, flexible buildings at quite reasonable cost relative to cost of restoring stones to their former glory.

What would I like to see in a (re)new(ed) cathedral? Here are two simple ideas for architects to get their heads around: an underground carpark, so no one is deterred from coming to a large service because of fear of not finding a carpark*; a space flexible enough to enable our annual synods, and other conferences to be held in the cathedral (some underground space would help into which seating, tables, etc could be easily lowered and raised for storage between events).

In general terms we are a city now facing two significant challenges: heritage and homelessness. Proud of our heritage expressed in our buildings - cathedrals and churches, certain large houses and many buildings housing businesses, and the "formers" (provincial chambers, university) - we have a desire not to lose that heritage. But we now have many people who are either homeless or facing imminent homelessness. Can we meet both challenges? Can we wait for one to be met before the other? Grateful for the extraordinary generosity of others, will we nevertheless have enough funds to meet both challenges?

*It is true that a revamped inner city may yet include many new carparks near to the cathedral, and the future of the central district as a lively precinct may depend on the council making carparks free, so an underground carpark at the cathedral may not be necessary.

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