I never really understood what Post-Traumatic Shock Disorder was until I began to visit Christchurch a couple of months back. To arrive as a visitor to this once very proud city is quite a shock on so many levels, but the biggest effects are on the people themselves. It is not just a physical ‘bomb-site’ in places as the feeling of a post war zone has invaded the mental health of the town’s people.
As you might expect, after having been through so much, there is determination and drive in folk, but there is also a shift in perspectives. Interestingly perhaps, much thinking is driven around issues of safety: personal, family and community. There is a strong desire to avoid reminders of harm and in many cases to obliterate them from the face of the earth. Rebuilding still appears to be somewhere in the future for many.
The loss of much of the city’s heritage fabric is a sad indictment of current process and shows how a system isn’t prepared can act in the interests of a few. Decisions driven by fear, in this case fear of personal and public safety, are too easily distorted and to me at least, this is part of what has been Christchurch’s heritage death knell.
In a town well known for its outstanding heritage there are very few people who will fight to retain even parts of older buildings. Local architects have been, on the whole, AWOL from any determined discussion. It is time for fellow professionals to get in and support our Christchurch fellows and help renew their passions for things that last. Quality of our built environment is at stake!