Monday, September 29, 2008

Southern exposure

Some observations on Christchurch. The city centre, that
is to say Cathedral Square and the streets immediately
around it, appears to have been taken over almost entirely
by shops and eating places aimed at attracting Asian
tourists. Fair enough, if that's where the money is, but the
city centre seems to completely lack local character now.
We looked in vain for sightings of the indigenous long black,
ubiquitous in Wellington but driven, apparently, from
Christchurch's streets by sushi outlets, internet cafes and
bland predators like Starbucks and Muffin Break. On the
other hand, the estuaries down Bexley and Ferrymead way
are rich with bird life thanks to an enlightened policy of
creating wetland reserves for the likes of godwits, pied
oyster-catchers and the redoubtable scaup, a once-rare
duck now enjoying a population boom. Alas, the Ferrymead
foreshore has had a giant apartment block dumped on it,
and the hills of nearby suburbs like Sumner and Redcliffs
have been desecrated by some of the worst architecture it
has been my misfortune to ever drive past. On fabulous
sites overlooking the ocean people with more money than
aesthetic sense have built ghastly blocky houses with all the
charm and none of the functionality of concrete bunkers.
Bearing absolutely no relation to the landscape they inhabit
(or rather, infest), these hideous objects stand only as
memorials to the poverty of architectural imagination in
our time. I hope the pied oyster-catchers poop on them.

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