Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Disappearing buildings...

Driving round regional NZ I was very aware of the possible ramifications of the new earthquake legislation. This is that 'earthquake prone' buildings must be brought up to standard within ten years or be 'demolished'. 

I couldn't help looking round some of the smaller towns and deleting from my mind'e eye the few notable buildings to escape an improvised appearance. 

The ramifications are enormous, as many of these buildings are not easy to tenant even as they are. Let alone owners being able to find the finance to upgrade to a really very high standard. Demolition - gaps in the teeth - is what will happen. 

That is, there will be gaps in a run of buildings which were once reasonably coherent. Many of the more bravura buildings will vanish. Small NZ towns, which on the whole lack architectural charm  - or charm of any sort, I am afraid - will return to their rudimentary beginnings.

The problem is how to make these buildings safe in an economically feasible way.

But while I travelled round, I took these photos of some likely candidates for 'disappearance'.
The Taihape Cinema, endearingly called 'NZ's Finest Country Cinema'

Above is the cinema in Taihape. It appeared to be still well-used with an almost art-house list of films showing.

Any cinema showing documentaries should be saved.

 I couldn't help but think what a gap, in many senses, the disappearance of this building will be.

This one is across the road. Of little architectural merit, yet it whispers the past. I love the way old faded signs remain on buildings long after their use has past.

This building in Marton in the Rangitikei caught my fancy. It is well maintained, indeed well turned out as befits a shop that once sold riding habits. 

J.J.McDonald Tailor and Habit Maker.

Marton, which prides itself on being the hub of the Rangitikei, is full of resplendent
brick buildings which speak of its once-wealthy past. What is their future?

As with Wanganui city, whose streets are full of big brick and plaster buildings of some elegance.

But 'disappearance' will strike many buildings.

This is a Catholic modernist church designed by Ernst Plischke in Taihape in the 1950s.

It is roughcast on the exterior and it sits in Taihape like some kind of satellite
landed from a different galaxy. 

But I doubt very much whether it will fulfil the new earthquake requirements so it will be labelled 'earthquake prone'. 

And at the end of ten years everyone will have to decide whether to 'disappear' it.

The built culture of Aotearoa New Zealand now faces its biggest ever challenge. It's daunting and there needs to be a wide debate about how to ensure our cultural heritage survives and the buildings are safe.

If I have time - away from my book - I hope to write some more on these challenges. 

PS One thing everyone can do is join 'Heritage Aotearoa' which will act as a lobby group.


  1. I hope you will continue this post - and thanks for the advice to join "Heritage Aotearoa".

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