Shake n’ Bake

Everyone quite rattled today.  A big aftershock centred in the harbour knocked power out this morning.  Back on now but people really starting to want this all to end.  Pretty tough on the nerves.

I went for my first trip into the city today to drop a friend off.  Sad to see the damage to the beautiful older buildings and even just the ramshackle brick ones that no-one would claim are remarkable examples of architecture but nevertheless add to the character of the city.  It’s those ones that make me saddest – easy to mourn the churches and the heritage-listed ones but all those old factories and workshops, warehouses and back alleys – they’re the ones that really make a difference in your day to day city experience.

My brother coined the term ‘Shake n’ Bake Buildings’ for those horrible tilt-slab concrete developments that over the past 15 or so years have infested Christchurch.

Property developers love the technology.  Huge concrete slabs are prefabricated on or off-site and then ’tilted’ up into position and braced by large scaffolding like steel tubes while the building is somehow ‘stitched’ together, probably by chewing gum or something.  It’s super fast, cheap and manages to lend an air of strip-mall sameness to any development.  Just brilliant.

I always wondered about the wisdom of these buildings (let alone the asthetic value).  I mean, concrete has a finite lifespan (which I can’t be bothered to look up on t’interweb) but I’ll wager that it’s considerably longer than the veneer of ‘nice, clean newness’ takes to fade and taint as rain run-off stains the sides like tide marks on a sweaty middle-aged squash playing property developer’s armpits.  But I always wondered how they would stack up in an earthquake.

They kind of did the job of an earthquake themselves seeing that they served to wipe out large chunks of Christchurch’s dwindling heritage and other funky old buildings, replacing them with cheap, tacky little commercial developments that seem to spend half their time empty and for lease.  The other thing Christchurch seemed hell-bent on replacing it’s character buildings with were car yards.  But that’s a story for another day…

I always wondered if the people who thought these shake n’ bake buildings were a good idea had ever seen any Buster Keaton movies.  Or been to a movie studio and seen the great building facades which worked on the same principle but were never designed to be permanent.  They’re not real.

But they’re awfully convenient.

Well wouldn’t you know it.  The day has finally dawned where we got to test out how robust these houses of cards really are. 7.1 magnitude of Earth’s complete disregard for humanity’s baubles.

And at first glance it looks like: Shake n’ Bake 1, Lovely Old Character Buildings nil.

Yes, it’s a property developers wet dream cum true.  A lot less of those pesky old dames cluttering up the city with their character and their quiet dignity.  A lot more space for regurgitated tacky concrete.  (And why do they always have to be that washed out khaki colour?).  And a city desperate to get itself tarted up for an overpriced sporting event next year.  There’s already talk of central government contributing to the rebuild.  I can hear the rubbing of hands from here.

One friend quipped “Christchurch is going to look like even more of a Bunnings Warehouse than it already does.”

Maybe we’ll seize the opportunity to make something beautiful out of disaster, to build a city we can be proud of and live in.  To save the old buildings, to build stronger, beautiful new ones.  To realise that people love character more than they love convenience…

But just think about all the extra parking we can build in!

Now that’s convenient.


One thought on “Shake n’ Bake

  1. Actually I think the problem lies in many places with the kind of land that was allowed to be opened up for development. After 5th form geography I swore to avoid property built on drained/reclaimed land. In K-poi many well constructed buildings fell into the ground because of the underlying soil (or lack thereof). The older residential properties were built before the town was drained so wel,l so tended to be built on higher or firmer ground. That’s my theory anyway

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