Looking back at the earliest project notes it was June-July 2012 when I first began to think about recording the demoltion of the Central Police building in Christchurch's earthquake-shattered city centre. I remember being at a Pecha Kucha night, at the Court Theatre, and discussing the project with sonic artist Simon Kong, to see if he was interested in being involved. Simon would eventually connect me with Rose James, who has a work in the exhibition, and with photographer Dave Isdale - he ran a time lapse setup in the City Council building for over a year, capturing the day-to-day changes of the building, and the city beyond.
Word on the street was that the building was going to be demolished. Initial inquiries to Ngāi Tahu were less than successful - apparently negotiations with the insurers were continuing - "Please call back later". After a couple more attempts I decided to wait for the news, like everyone else. Finally, in April 2014, The Press reported that the building was to be demolished.
Now, good fortune would have it that the overseeing engineers for the demolition would be Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers. Helen Trappitt works there and we had worked together on a project Helen created for Gap Filler, constructing an oversized Monopoly board game property on a vacant site on Manchester Street. Coincidentally Helen had worked with Christchurch architect and artist Amiria Kiddle to create Intersection Point as part of FESTA in 2013. This artwork was on the corner of the now-vacant Central Police building.
A call to Helen got the project underway, with introductions to Ngāi Tahu Property and CeresNZ. As building owners Ngāi Tahu Property gave me permission to access the site and CeresNZ (who had the task of demolishing the building) gave me access to inside the structure as it was being pulled apart. In mid-2014 the demolition began and I fronted up with camera and sound recorder and began a somewhat haphazard process of recording as much of the work as possible on site. And haphazard because site visits were made whenever I had a spare half hour, half day, or if I knew something specific might be happening and all of this fitted around my work on Gap Filler projects and the never-ending battle to resolve personal home rebuild insurance challenges.
For the next 12 months all spare time was spent photographing hundreds of images of men at work, the machinery of demolition, parts of the building (both inside and out)
Special thanks to
Ian Dewar - Ngāi Tahu Property
Swaroop Gouda - CeresNZ
Dave Leonard - CeresNZ
The 48 Hereford Street project began in July 2014 as the first of the demolition teams rolled onto the site where the 'quake-damaged Brutalist-design Central Police building stood and began what would be a year-long process of clearing the building in preparation for its removal. Initially this was meant to be a conventional top-down demo however, as the project managers considered the significant negative effects of noise, dust, debris, vibration, and traffic disruption a decision was soon made to implode the remaining structure. This took place at the end of May, 2015.
From the start of the demolition I was given pretty much unrestricted access to the whole site and the building itself, with a view to comprehensively documenting the demolition process of one building in a central business district that was disappearing before our eyes. Photographs and video captured some of the day-to-day business of the destructive process; sound recordings provided another source, another way to experience the noise of demolition, from the ear-splitting to the whisper-quiet. Artefacts were recovered as well - items left behind as the Police evacuated and relocated to temporary lodgings while the Justice precinct was built. Instructional and administrative signs, 'signs' - tags - left by those held in the cells, commentaries and criticisms. A dictionary left in a drawer in the Watch-house; a set of keys for the Blood Cupboard; a sign showing how lip stick, a comb could be turned into a weapon.
Throughout the year, as time allowed while working on Gap Filler projects, I stopped in at the site and photographed, recorded video and audio, and claimed items before they headed out to Burwood. Once the implosion was confirmed media interest increased and the 48 Hereford Street project was fortunate to gain media coverage in print, on radio, and featured on both TVOne and TV3, in the days leading up to the implosion.
Scrap and Demolition article
The Press article
Radio New Zealand: Spectrum documentary