Christchurch’s Cathedral Square reopens: an emotional walk

Canterbury people are thrilled to be able to enter the very centre of their city on foot after nine months.    The CBD was devastated by the earthquake in February, and Cathedral Square has  been inaccessible to the public since then.  CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, commonly pronounced as ‘Sarah’) has created a safe walkway, which can be accessed for three weekends in November/December, while there is a break in demolition.  I took these photos on Sunday 27th November.

Christchurch Cathedral November 2011

Christchurch experienced three major series of earthquakes: in September 2010, then February and June 2011.  It was the February earthquake that caused the most devastation to central Christchurch.  Although the September earthquake at 7.1 on the Richter scale was larger, the 6.3 in February was centred in the Heathcote Valley, only 10km away from the city centre, and at 5km deep was very shallow.  The intensity of ground shaking caused major damage to many buildings.


the Cathedral in 2005

This is how Cantabrians like to remember their Cathedral.


The Cathedral has been deconsecrated and is awaiting controversial decisions about whether it will be partly or fully demolished.




CERA’s Walkway begins at Cashel Mall, continues north along Colombo St and then enters Cathedral Square.  It ends in this viewing area directly opposite the Cathedral, which is out of shot on the right.


20,000 people used the Walkway on the first of three weekends that it is open.


The Chalice has survived.  The monument was created in 2001, to celebrate the new millenium.  It is made up of 42 leaf patterns featuring different native plants.


A bus tour entering the Square.  Behind the Chalice is the Bank of New Zealand building, which is marked for demolition.


Worcester St from the Square, looking west towards the Avon River

Clarendon Tower, on the left, is also set for demolition. (Update 10 December – the Grant Thornton building on the right has been added to the demolition list this week after months of uncertainty.)


Citizen’s War Memorial

Another survivor is the Citizen’s War Memorial, a bronze structure unveiled in 1937.  The figures depict youth, sacrifice, justice, valour and peace, in remembrance of those who died in World War One.


The 17 storey Forsyth Barr building, centre left, appears to have escaped demolition, though people were trapped in the building on 22nd February by collapsed stairwells.  It will be one of the few high-rise office blocks to remain after demolition of quake-damaged buildings is completed.


The tram service is, of course, suspended.   However the Christchurch City Council has assessed that there is only minor damage to the infrastructure, and is looking forward to an opening date for the service sometime in the future.


the Heritage Hotel

The Heritage Hotel has “repairable” status.


28 storey Grand Chancellor Hotel, partially deconstructed


Closed section of Cashel Mall, looking east

The western section of Cashel Mall has reopened, as part of the “Re-start The Heart” campaign, using brightly coloured shipping containers as temporary replacements for demolished shops. (See previous post.)


the Walkway, Colombo St looking south towards The Crossing

Leaving the Square, heading back through the Walkway, it is an emotional experience. Others thought so too, the mood was quiet, everyone speaking in hushed tones, quietly taking photos, or just staring.  Even here, more shops can be seen that are marked for demolition.


A restaurant through a window, untouched since 22nd February.

For an update on The Cathedral and surrounding buildings (March 2012) please click here.

2 thoughts on “Christchurch’s Cathedral Square reopens: an emotional walk

  1. Pingback: Canterbury Earthquake September 2010 | annettewoodford

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