Isaac House stands in solitary splendour on the corner of Colombo and Armagh Streets. Located at 779 Colombo Street, it is a Category 2 listed heritage building in the distinctive Georgian Revival style. It was completed in 1927 for Henry Owen, proprietor of chemists
Cook and Ross. If — like me — you are a fan of this architectural style, 69 Worcester Street is another fine example.
The Foundation stone for the King Edward Barracks was laid on the 13th of July 1905 by the Right Hon. R.J. Seddon, Premier and Defence Minister, though construction had already started.
The official ceremony narrowly missed being delayed as there had been an accident with the Foundation Stone: a special saw had been required for the inscription in the particularly hard stone, and the saw broke. The job then had to be completed by the masons by hand, dulling several more of their tools in the process.
It amazingly only took 25 days to complete the building on the corner of Cashel and Montreal Streets. To accomplish this remarkable feat, workmen worked after dark by gaslight, and it was remarked upon on the day in the Star newspaper:
The apparent apathy with which the authorities long seemed to treat Christchurch’s need of a habitable drillshed has been followed by a display of building energy which easily surpasses anything ever seen in the city.
The contractors and architects were Luttrell Brothers of Christchurch. Utilising an innovative design, of which Alfred Luttrell claimed there were only two existing examples in England, it would cover a large space for little money. The drillshed was designed as a large arched building and to be fire proof, unlike its predecessor which burnt down in 1903.
Constructed of 21 iron girders that weighed 6 tons each and enabled the building to be 36.5m x 91m and 12m tall with no obstructive structural columns. A brick mobilisation store, gun store and officers rooms were also built on the site.
As well as being the site for military activities such as holding drills for soldiers, hearing court-martials, demonstrations for cadets, assembling military areoplanes and giving gas mask training, it was also used for civic occasions and to host all sorts of entertainment. These included a World’s Fair, flower shows, car shows, circuses, pet shows, poultry shows, and training sessions for the All Blacks. These types of events were often illustrated in the newspapers, and some can be accessed through Paperspast.
The riverside site was an important food gathering area for Māori and was associated with the New Zealand Army from 1864. The army left the site in 1993 and Ngai Tahu Property purchased the Barracks site and the buildings were removed in 1997. The site is currently under going post-earthquake commercial redevelopment.
This is the sort of book that you can just meander through, looking at the pretty pictures and picking up a bit of information here and there – exactly my sort of non-fiction!
Arsenic is of course a poison, prevalent in whodunnits. What I didn’t realise was that it is also a wonderful enhancer of colour, and was used extensively in wallpaper. Not only were these papers poisonous to those unfortunate enough to work in the factories that produced them, but a gas was produced when they became damp. This was not an unusual situation when many houses had little heating and cold damp conditions.
A lovely – if slightly chilling – book to flick through with fascinating anecdotes, luscious illustrations of the wallpapers and stories that flesh out the history of arsenic and its victims.
This is another wonderful book to dip into. The author is a writer-at-large for Vanity Fair, and I really enjoyed the way he brings the homes – and the people in them – to life.
We are introduced to Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma who sits in the chair with a steady, suspicious and steely gaze, while her sister (standing) describes her older sister as “the personification of the stiff upper lip”. Patricia apparently has more titles than any woman in England and Queen Elizabeth reportedly gets a bit flustered in her company:
She was Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry for thirty-three years, until she retired in 2004. “When I turned eighty, I said, ‘for goodness sake, I can’t drive a tank any longer'” she explains.
Many of these homes are impossibly expensive to keep up. Some have been turned into variations of a Disney theme park, but many of the occupants have developed clever and surprisingly interesting ways of making a bob or two.
The Honourable Garech Browne of Luggala in Ireland has been a champion of Irish music, forming Claddagh Records and sponsoring the Chieftains. The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava specialises in prize cows and artisanal yoghurt. When asked what supermarket she would prefer stocked the yoghurt she replied that she “hadn’t a clue” because she had never been to a supermarket!
Even the cover intrigues me, a young aristocratic couple and their son – mother and son perched on top of an ornate ladder (as you do) and the young father leaning nonchalantly, dressed in what looks like his grandfather’s military jacket, surrounded by old books and paintings. All very otherwordly.
FESTA is a “biennial weekend celebration of urban creativity” and one of the coolest events on Ōtautahi’s calendar. It is on this Labour weekend, kicking off with the SuperWOW disco at the Dance-o-mat on Friday 21 October, and ending with PechaKucha on Monday 24 October at 7.30pm. The unmissable big event is Lean Means on Saturday 22 October.
I had a chat to FESTA’s director Jessica Halliday to get a flavour of FESTA 2016.
What is FESTA?
It is about creating a collective positive experience for the people of Christchurch and visitors.
FESTA helps people reconnect to the central city, to rebuild that severed relationship. A big street party is a positive experience, and connects them with places that are regenerating. It catalyses changes in architecture and design. The collective making of a big project like this is a microcosm of the cooperative way we can work together.
What’s on at FESTA 2016
Lean Means is on Saturday 22 October, and is the biggest event of FESTA with 10,000 to 15,000 people expected. There will be 18 projects to experience. The tallest is around 6 metres and most are about 4 metres. Some will be integrated into existing structures.
There is a full programme of events with a lot of workshops, speakers, and a symposium on the resuse of materials (organised by Rekindle working with Objectspace), and a session with artist Hannah Beehre on drawing Christchurch architecture. Events for kids include creative junk and mutant monster workshops.
If you want to experience a Human Library, Talking Books and Freerange Press bring together a collection of passionate experts on a range of topics including the state of the city,music, and brewing beer. You can book a twenty-minute, one-on-one conversation with a human talking book.
Utilising waste streams – Sustainability, Re-use
Jos de Krieger of Superuse Studios in Rotterdam is a specialist in urban installations and interventions and the creative director of FESTA 2016. He developed the concept, visited, and gave lectures and design workshops, and also met with New Zealand and Australian studios. The idea is to get a brief and a budget, then look for waste materials in the vicinity to be reused. Using such materials requires a lot of research.
The materials for Lean Means are lightweight – plastics, cardboard, bottles, post-consumer plastic bags and are local to the studios. The pavilion for the Ōtākaro Orchard is made of hundreds of metres of frost cloth from the Big Barn in Sydney – it can come over easily on the plane with the students as it’s so light.
Re-use is part of what FESTA is now. Students were re-using stuff anyway, with one of 2014’s projects using plastic bottle rejects on their way to China for recycling. They went on to be recycled after appearing at FESTA CityUps.
FESTA closes the loop with connections back to sustainability all the way through. Cassels will be there, and they are working on cleaning up the Heathcote, and Punky Brewster have a focus on reducing water in beer sales. There will be a second hand market with upcycled things for sale.
We are trying as best as we can to make it consistent.
Art and architecture
CreativeNZ funding has enabled three artists from three different disciplines to be involved: Juliet Arnott of Rekindle, artist Julia Morison and movement artist Julia Harvie.
Julia Morison has been integrated into a team from Massey University, School of Design at the College of Creative Arts. Her philosophy is that art shouldn’t be a “brooch pinned on at the end”, and that artists should be involved in informing the development of projects.
Moving artist Julia Harvie will suspending herself of the COCA gallery gantry and weave herself a nest from coppiced hazel shoots. The performance teases out ideas of making a city that nurtures children, and what parents can do to influence the creation of that environment.
Help FESTA transform Christchurch by supporting Lean Means, and share in a positive reimagining of the city – full of lights, colours and people. This Labour Weekend, we will transform central Christchurch with a large-scale reimagined city called Lean Means, live for one night only, free and open to all, on Saturday 22 October.
FESTA 2014 – CityUps
FESTA 2013 – Canterbury Tales
FESTA 2012 – LuxCity
Libraries and reading
As a kid, Jessica went every week to Hornby Library. Her main preoccupations were:
McLeans Mansion is front page news in today’s copy of The Press (7 July 2016). This slightly spooky architectural jewel (also known as Holly Lea) has an interesting history:
The Mansion was a departure from the accustomed work of the architects, England Brothers, and it was an unusual design among Christchurch’s large homes — when built it was reputed to be the largest wooden residence in New Zealand. The most remarkable thing about the Mansion is surely that it was built for a 78 year-old bachelor and that it was used as a private residence for only 13 years.
In 1899, 78-year old bachelor and former Waikakahi runholder, Allan McLean (1822-1907), employed Robert West England (1863-1908) as architect for a Jacobean-style, three-storeyed wooden house of 53 rooms. It was completed in 1900 and McLean named it Holly Lea. At 23,000 square feet, it was probably the largest wooden residence in New Zealand. It was used as a private home for only 13 years. Over the years it has been a home (until 1955) for genteel women down on their luck, unable to be accommodated with women of a lower socio-economic background as it was felt the two groups would not get on; a dental nurses’ hostel; a Salvation Army rest home; leased for a time by the St Vincent de Paul Society. In 2005 it became the home of Academy New Zealand, Christchurch, a private training establishment offering entry level vocational training.
Over 250 students from CPIT, Unitec and The University of Auckland transform two blocks of Christchurch’s central city with towering, physical installations to create their vision of a future Christchurch. Beneath these outrageous designs are buzzing urban spaces where pop-up cafes, performance spaces, an all-ages-youth venue, a night market, dance hall, community bike workshop and bike light disco, bars, street games and much more operate.
There is a plethora of other events on too – including this library one:
Book Out and Read In, Sun 26 Oct 11am-1pm
Come along to Julia Morison’s wonderful Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers, on the corner of Colombo St and Gloucester St. Get a book out from the mobile library or from the nearby Central Library Peterborough – or bring your own. Read amongst the trees of this sculptural installation. Bring your lunch and enjoy a quiet inner-city experience. Read in, chill out.
Jelloucity Come and create a colourful, glowing city that is supposed to shake and wobble.
Poetica project #5, ‘Emerge’ is a calligraphic, three-dimensional line of poetry by Irish poet William Yeats floating in the Avon. Readings and artist-led liquid poetry workshops accompany the installation. You can write your own liquid poetic message – brushes and water are provided.
Picture Palace Parade Charlie Gates, cinephile and senior Press reporter, leads a group on an immersive tour of the old cinema sites of Cathedral Square – a walk through history. This is followed by an outdoor screening of a classic movie.
In a figurative sense, shoulders play an important role in our lives, with most of us at one point or another providing a shoulder on which to cry, or to lean. In more than one instance I have shouldered the blame and the burden, not to mention given out my fair share of cold shoulders and, on rare occasions, I have been known to put my shoulder to the grind.
It is only recently that I have taken on the role of a literal shoulder, which I will be doing this Labour Weekend as part of FESTA, the Festival of Transitional Architecture, which runs from 25th-28th October. FESTA is entering into its second year of making life in earthquake-damaged Christchurch exciting and vibrant by showcasing a wide variety of creative projects, with last year’s launch attracting 30,000 people back into the heart of a broken city still finding its bearings.
2012’s LUXCITY wowed residents and visitors alike with its wondrous light installations, and the centrepiece for 2013 also looks set to set many jaws agape in amazement. In an appropriately-appropriated re-telling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, an epicly-sized representation of The Merchant, who will be controlled by nine puppeteers, flanked by a handful of less-epic-but-still-very-impressive friars, will lead an eye-popping procession through the city, beginning at the Bridge of Remembrance and finishing in the Square. And yours truly will be playing the role of The Merchant’s right shoulder, lest you thought my introduction was mere padding.
The details are far too delicious to divulge, but in my rehearsal with the Free Theatre team I have been getting to grips with the fine art of replicating lust, resignation, and frustration via the medium of a bamboo pole attached to a billowy shoulder, which ranks high in the list of sentences I never imagined I’d type.
The Canterbury Tales procession will be in full swing on the evenings of Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October from 8:30pm onwards. We entreat you all to don your best carnival costumes, bring a tambourine or some maracas, and join in the festivities to help us cast off the recent years of weeping, wailing, and other sorrow.