Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Revenge of the Philistines

Thousands of Christchurch citizens squirmed uneasily in their breakfast chairs when they read that the Government Life Insurance Department intended to erect a nine-storey office block on a site in Cathedral Square. It was a squirm of instinctive reaction - nine storeys were surely going a bit too far! As the days passed many of the citizens became convinced that it was going far too far - and what was more they could offer some reasons why this was so.  One letter to a newspaper pointed out that a building of such tremendous height would throw a shadow right across the Square, and as a result the winter frosts would have no time to thaw. I overheard a neighbour protest that the Square would never take the weight - surely everyone knows that the centre of Christchurch was once a bog! But the citizen who really delighted me was the one who, in another letter to the newspaper, pointed out that the proposed building would be completely out of keeping with the present architectural dignity of the Square. It reminded me of the look of wonderment on the face of an English friend who stood with me once beside the Godley statue and gazed around him. Finally he said, 'All this Square needs is a modern block of offices and an Eskimo igloo, and you'll have the lot.' 

With the Government Life Building, our collection will be almost complete.

Smyth, Bernard. "Christchurch: Milk and Dignity." Comment 3, no. 3 (1962): 15-16.

And now it is going. I liked it.

Wild Flag


Anonymous said...

I heard that this building had no tenants before the quake because of asbestos, and no-one could figure out how to remove it cheaply and safely. Where is that asbestos now? and where will it go when the building is demolished? Will it disappear into the air?

Peter in Dundee said...

It is much easier, and cheaper, to remove asbestos from within a Red Zone accessible only to construction workers. Also absolutely no tenants also makes it cheaper. As for what to do with it? put it back where it came from, in the ground. It is a natural substance after all.

What? did you think it was some nasty 'chemical'?

I will grant that I've seen worse buildings than that but I wouldn't say more. I'm not against modernity btw.