Extensive damage to Christchurch CBD, with the 6.3 quake at 1pm today, and the numerous heavy aftershocks. Some deaths have been reported – no details as yet update: 78 reported deaths so far, with hundreds still missing, but many many buildings down. The Cathedral has partially collapsed – the steeple has gone, and a nearby church in Durham St is destroyed.

Our thoughts are definitely with Christchurch at present. Commentary at this point feels redundant, except to say that the September 2010 quake now just seems like an exercise leading up to this one, and that Wellington really needs to start thinking seriously about the situation here.

Wellington City Council has an earthquake strengthening fund that is totally insufficient. The continued earthquakes in Christchurch, which until a few months ago did not feature highly on the “likely to be destroyed by earthquake” scenario, must be taken as a severe warning to Wellington to face the reality of an equally (or, far in excess of) grim destruction. We need to be better prepared and we need to start now.


12 responses to “Christchurch”

  1. Looking back at the September quake, in a dry and impersonal manner, it was notable for several things.
    1. That modern building methods were working very well.
    2. That old, Gothic, stone buildings also seemed ot hold up well.
    3. That no one should be trust unreinforced brick masonry buildings, and that if they were important for heritage, they needed to be strengthened immediately.

    It will be interesting to see if those points are still valid with this latest quake. From what we have seen so far, some of the old Gothic buildings have also collapsed, and some modern buildings are also badly damaged, with some from the 70s also collapsing. The comment about unreinforced brick masonry is even more valid than before.

  2. REports that the Canterbury Provinical Chambers are gone, and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament half collapsed with major damaged to the parts still standing. CTV gone, etc etc. Yet all the handwringing and posturing wrt lost heritage kind of pales into insignificance when compared to the shock, confusion, death and destruction that the people of the city are facing currently…

  3. Barrington Avatar

    modern buildings are definitely not all right. With many of the deaths / trapped people onside the Pyne Gould Corp building, being trapped under concrete floors is a massive serious issue.

  4. Yes – CTV was a comparatively modern building also – I had to check google maps to be sure though, as given the devastation I had assumed it was much older (and was somewhat confused by the concrete core which remained as the only element standing)…

  5. Silverado Avatar

    Modern buildings are designed to meet different levels. Most buildings are designed to a strength level sufficient only to resist well enough to let people escape.
    Only buildings of national importance, like Museums and of course Hospitals, are designed to levels to protect teh building as well as the inhabitants. Wellington’s new hospital, for instance, has Base Isolation and dampers, as does Te Papa. Many of the standard commercial buildings in Christchurch have done their job well, got people out alive, and will now be demolished.

  6. As a young architecture student I was inspired by the Miles Warren doco on Artsville recently to one day visit some of the cities modern architecture. (Town Hall,Harewood Crematorium, College House, anything by Peter Beaven especially Toll Plaza)

    Obviously theres a lot going on down there at the moment but I’m looking forward to hearing about the state of some of the modern heritage of the city.

  7. Mike: No news yet about Sir Miles, and his beautiful old house that he was restoring again, after the last quake. Ohinetahi, where Sir Miles lives, was partially destroyed in September’s earthquake, but he had launched straight back into plans to rebuild / restore where possible. As the home is in the Port Hills, and so this time even closer to the epicentre, there is a fair chance that it has been destroyed even more.

    However, apart from the Grand Chancellor Hotel, which is (I think) also a Warren and Mahoney job, there is no news on how any of the modern buildings have fared. One big standout builfding in particular is the Christchurch Town Hall, which is one of the best auditoriums in the country – not a single picture so far, so we can only presume that it has survived untouched.

    The WAM website has posted a notice that all their staff and families are alive, but that they are closed till next week, and “We will contact you all with an update once we have reassessed the safety of entering the building.”

    If you are interested, you can follow info on modern Christchurch houses at the following site:

    and info on modern Christchurch commercial architecture at:

  8. A story from the NZ Herald website reports that:
    “The Pyne Gould building, Canterbury TV and other buildings where most lives were lost are all believed to have been built before a succession of increasingly tough earthquake-resistant standards began in the mid-1970s.

    A 2004 change to the Building Act required all local councils to adopt policies to strengthen such buildings to at least one-third of the current building standard.

    But engineers say that almost all councils, except Wellington, have adopted merely “passive” policies which do not require strengthening old buildings except when their owners seek new building consents for alterations.

    And Auckland University Associate Professor Jason Ingham, a management committee member of the NZ Society for Earthquake Engineering, said the society advocated raising the requirement to two-thirds of the current standard.

    “If you improve your building to only one-third of the building standard, it is still 20 times more likely than a modern building to fall down in an earthquake,” he said. “At two-thirds, it’s only something like three times as likely to fail.”

    Wellington City Council requires any building built before 1976 to be strengthened to a third of the current standard within 20 years if it may contain, or risk damaging, crowds of people. A previously tighter timetable was pushed out to 20 years in 2009 after building owners complained about the costs. Former mayor Kerry Prendergast urged the council to revisit the issue “with a view to tightening the deadlines again” after the September quake.”

  9. Quote:” One big standout builfding in particular is the Christchurch Town Hall, which is one of the best auditoriums in the country – not a single picture so far, so we can only presume that it has survived untouched.”

    I’m told that the secondary school teachers were holding a stopwork meeting in the auditorium at the time and that it was sufficiently scary for my mate to report that “he thought he was going to die”.

  10. And yes, I’ve since heard that while most of it is OK, it has suffered some damage, and some repairs will be necessary. Interesting how no one seems to have been reporting much on it so far though…

    At a guess: it is, after all, on a site overlooking the Avon – and hence quite possibly the soil conditions may be waterladen – therefore it is quite possible that some aspect of it may be on a lean due to subsidence.

  11. Guy – some news (in case you hadn’t caught up with it yet), on the Town Hall – basically it has been red-stickered, and its fate is uncertain, although full engineer reports are underway, and should be made public in the next few days.

    I will post the links to the articles in another comment, as they will no doubt require moderation…

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