I’ve been thinking a lot about historic places lately. As you do, when you live in Christchurch. I was shocked when I heard that the spire of the Christchurch Cathedral had come down, and that the building was badly damaged, possibly beyond repair. It is Christchurch’s most iconic building.
But then as it sunk in, I reflected that I didn’t mind so much if it wasn’t there any more. Part of me thought, “good, let’s move on”. The church is a part of our past, a very important one. But to be completely honest, I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t part of my future city. I know that many many people disagree with this, but I always thought it was ugly. I think we can do better.
And when I look around at some of the other buildings that are going or gone, I feel the same way. They were draughty, un-green, impractical, dangerous buildings. Beautiful to look at, but not really all that much fun to live or work in. Need a new data cable or air conditioning unit? No worries, you’ll just need to drill through half a metre of double-brick. Brick, as it turns out, that wasn’t as sturdy as it looked. Trying to get out of one of those old buildings when your life depends on it is worryingly difficult.
I do feel sad about the loss of some of the buildings. The Christchurch Basilica brought tears to my eyes. But every time I read about the tragic destruction of these old buildings, and how we have to save them no matter what the cost, I can’t help thinking, “why?”
They are part of our heritage, but then so are a lot of things. When my Nana died, I had to let her go. She’s no less part of my history and I’ll always remember her, but I had to move on. I found new people to admire. People who shape the future me. I think we should to the same with our buildings.
Document them, remember them, but now they are dead, let them be gone. Grieve for them, and then let’s move on. We’ve got a city to rebuild.