Anonymous love letters to Christchurch discovered – by Steve Carter
Local Good News/Christchurch
‘Dear Christchurch, you are incredible’ – by Steve Carter
The American writer Anatole Broyard said, “In an age like ours, which is not given to letter-writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people’s lives.” I like to think he would be heartened by the recent correspondence received in Christchurch from two visitors from his own country.
There has been some concern that tourists have been staying away from Christchurch, or simply moving swiftly elsewhere after flying into the Garden City’s swish new airport. The picture that may have been received overseas is one of a city of devastation with little to offer the international visitor, but far from being a tourist-free wasteland with no hope or potential, Christchurch is now very much back on the map for international visitors.
The Lonely Planet calls us one of New Zealand’s most exciting cities, saying: “If you’re heading to the South Island … definitely spend a few days in the city. There’s still plenty to do, and you’ll be supporting the new businesses inspiring Christchurch’s renaissance.”
Some of our overseas guests have even been so inspired by our resilience and innovative responses to our situation that they have been moved to write letters of support.
Just last week, an anonymous letter was found in the Re:Start pop-up container mall in Cashel Street. The handwritten letter was wedged under some stones and addressed simply “To Christchurch”. Dave Case, who found the letter, thought it was important enough to share with everyone so he scanned it and sent it to The Press, who posted it on their website.
The next day, The Press received another letter which had been found by Re:Start manager Paul Lonsdale at the container mall. Lonsdale had held onto the letter but was prompted to send it on to The Press on reading the original find.
Both letters acknowledge the devastation and the challenges faced by the Shaky City but both also speak of being inspired by the sides of the city the correspondents had been exposed to. The first (anonymous) letter refers to Gap Filler projects and their “incredible” work … “not just to help people who have lost things but to boost people’s attitudes.” The writer, from the US, speaks of coming away “with a greater appreciation for helping out,” and shares a desire to get involved in non-profit and giving work on their return to the States.
The letter tells the people of Christchurch they are, “amazing for giving their time without expecting anything in return and courageous for staying here throughout all the troubles they’ve faced.” It ends, simply and beautifully: “Know that your city has made an impact on someone’s life and everything you all are doing here is incredible.”
Such sentiments are echoed in the second letter, from Logan Butler, USA. He starts, “I came to your city expecting to see a fair amount of damage but what I saw shocked me … it seemed so depressing and lifeless.”
But he goes on to say that it was meeting local people that changed his mind and made him see the city differently. He writes, “I was impressed by some of the actions the people of Christchurch are taking to rebuild and bring hope to the area.”
He tells the people of Christchurch his letter is shared for “hope and rebirth” and that, “Wounds will heal. You will heal. This place will heal.”
So, more than a year on, we can all feel proud of the work we have done, individually and together, to help each other through this toughest of experiences. We stand shoulder to shoulder, surrounded by bizarre mini golf holes, funky container stores and road cones decorated with flowers. We know that we are winning.
My own open letter to CERA says simply this: “Dear CERA. Please continue to support and enable the people of Christchurch to share all their individual and unique expressions of creativity and desires for the future. Please continue to let us all be involved in making this great city even greater.”
After all, the tourists love it.
Read the inspiring stories of our Christchurch sponsors:
SHAC – The Sustainable Habitat Challenge – is a network of architects, builders, engineers, designers, building scientists, students and young professionals interested in taking positive action in their communities today.
On the 2-3 May 2012, SHAC presented the 2nd annual workshop on micro-architecture at the Christchurch Polytechnic Student Centre. Sixty attendees discussed temporary architecture, simple buildings, and the reuse of building material.
“People cherish their culture through recycling” – those are the words of Wang Shu, the 2012 winner of the Pritzker architecture prize. The demolition of red stickered housing and CBD buildings does not have to mean the eradication of Christchurch’s history or culture – nearly all materials can be reused in new construction, incorporating local memories and fusing the past with the present.
What is permanent in this land of earthquakes? In San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 as a temporary building for the Panama-Pacific Exposition and still stands today as an icon of the city. From the cardboard cathedral to the convention centre – how long will they serve us?
“Simple buildings are key for affordability” said Canadian architect Brian McKay Lyons, recently interviewed on Nine to Noon with Kim Hill. Lyons, from Nova Scotia, says “simple buildings are what we farmers and fishermen build when we can’t afford to get things wrong”
This symposium brought together elements of the growing Regeneration movement – people working together to take positive action in their communities.
Community Rebuild – for the Whole House Reuse project Juliet Arnott
Community Development – Joshua Durrant, Jess Smale, Sophie Moore
YTONG® is an alternative building system made from light-weight Aerated Autoclaved Concrete (AAC). It was invented in Sweden in 1923 and further developed under the YTONG® brand it turned into a world-wide success.
Environmentally friendly and non-toxic – From the manufacturing process to shipment, construction, and waste disposal YTONG® is in ecological balance.
Ensures high standard of well-being – YTONG® reduces temperature differences and humidity fluctuations and so ensures a comfortable and healthy room atmosphere.
Excellent workability – It is easy to erect a solid masonry structure quickly and precisely. Only few tools and implements are necessary.
Outstanding thermal insulation – Keeps buildings cool in summer and warm in winter saving on heating and air-conditioning.
YTONG® is fireproof and has a high fire rating – AAC is resistant to high temperatures for a longer period of time than any other solid building material. YTONG® is especially chosen for fireproof walls in commercial buildings.
Performs well in earthquakes – Thanks to its low weight and its plastic deformation properties the destructive force of earthquakes can be minimised.
Social Innovation is a small, hardworking community engagement agency based in Christchurch. They work with leading non-profits, changemakers, progressive companies and government to mobilise everyday New Zealanders. Their expertise in this area comes from grassroots innovation on large-scale community action projects, including the Student Volunteer Army, A Day at the Beach Festival, Love your Coast and a number of other public participation initiatives. They know how to scale initiatives and achieve big results with large numbers of stakeholders.
Their services include strategy, leadership training, volunteer coordination & management, media and communications, project management and fundraising. Find out more at www.socialinnovation.org.nz or make direct contact via their studio-line on 03 337 0861
Ph: 03 337 0861 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Got good news to share about your social enterprise? Join this inspiring line up of Christchurch sponsors, email email@example.com