Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Another year of Wellington

I am fond of this picture of the beach at Oriental Bay I took from the top of the botanical gardens, on the other side of the harbour, on a very hot Boxing Day almost exactly one year ago.

It is an uncharacteristic Wellington, bathed in visible heat. But this is a city that knows how to be pretty. I’ve taken to walking along the South coast.

And loop back around the forest at the back of the zoo.

But always in Wellington we are faced with the awareness of the city’s uncertain, unstable geography. A very large earthquake centred 100 miles away has made this a common sight.

The state of the Reading car park – a building people use to spend the day in the business district – caused the closure of half of Courtenay Place. The feared imminent collapse of a commercial building in Molesworth Street forced the evacuation of the headquarters of the Red Cross. Does any of this qualify as irony? At any rate, the building is being ‘deconstructed’.

There is nothing like an earthquake to make us notice the built features that lean needlessly over our heads. This one was fenced off along the waterfront.

In the most alarming incident, one of the floors of the recently built Statistics House pancaked during the quake, which thankfully happened in the middle of the night. They say the repairs will take a year. On the outside, you can see exactly where the fault line runs. It made the paving stones pop up like corn kernels in a pan.

And if you walk around the building, you can trace the fault line again.

The state-of-the-art BNZ headquarters next door are fenced off, too. I go the library and check the earthquake risk maps. Look at the ground underneath those buildings. Our prime real estate. The darker the colour, the greater the shaking.

Even before the Kaikoura earthquake, the GHQ building was encircled with an armoured sidewalk as a precautionary measure, while the fate of the listed site is decreed.

That is the negotiation that is always going on in Wellington, between safety and heritage value, or between safety and character. Anything that is of a certain age, and ornate, seems especially fragile (whether it is true or not). Like the Toomath’s buildings.

Or the top of ‘The Vic’.

None of this is unusual or new. It was a fairly typical year in Wellington.

In April, we lost Lanky the pelican. So long, old fella.

Some more pictures. The lovely lettering outside the National Library.

A reminder that graffiti are the original social media.

The inside of Thistle Hall back in July, during my son’s art exhibition.

Finally, a view of the Beehive with novelty sea urchins.

This is it for this blog for this year. In my other usual haunt, at Overland, we wrapped up proceedings with a collective post, while the Summer issue has hit the shelves and is graced by the artwork of the remarkable Sam Wallman. You could get that for Christmas. Or Don’t Dream It’s Over. Or the new Tell You What.

I’ll see you in the new year.

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