Topic: Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial
A memorial in Christchurch for the people who lost their lives or were injured on 22 February 2011
The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, Oi Manawa, on the banks of the Avon River between Montreal Street and Durham Street, provides a place to reflect on the events that changed Canterbury forever - paying respect to the 185 people who lost their lives on 22 February 2011 and those who were seriously injured. It acknowledges the shared trauma and support received with the recovery operation that followed. It consists of a reflective space on the north bank of the Avon River and a Memorial Wall built on the south bank. Slovenian architect, Grega Vezjak’s design for the Memorial Wall was selected following a call for 'Ideas to Remember'. The earthquakes had a profound effect on the families of those who lost their lives, those involved in the recovery process and the people of Christchurch and Canterbury. A memorial to acknowledge this is an important part of the city’s recovery and history. Throughout the project, bereaved families, those seriously injured and survivors have been involved in the engagement process, along with first responder organisations, relevant embassies and the public.
A call for 'Ideas to Remember' elicited more than 330 design concepts. The process was anonymous to ensure the chosen design was selected solely on the quality of the idea. The Memorial design was required to:
- honour the 185 people who lost their lives, and the seriously injured
- remember and give thanks to the organisations from New Zealand and the world that assisted in the rescue and recovery
- recognise the shared human experience of those involved in the earthquakes, the effects on the city and Canterbury including the loss of many treasured heritage buildings and everyday cityscape
- provide a space for formal civic events each year on 22 February
- allow for reflection and contemplation by small groups or individuals
- become the anchor point for remembering the impact of the earthquakes.
An Evaluation Panel comprising two architects, two landscape architects, two arts professionals and a bereaved family member recommended a shortlist of six designs - two that were from New Zealand and four from overseas.
Drawing on feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, the Evaluation Panel recommended Grega Vezjak’s Memorial Wall design because it:
- made best use of the sun and would not be shaded by buildings or trees
- provided a journey, beginning with the memorial space, travelling along the walkway past the names of those who were lost, acknowledgments and memories, and then over the Montreal Street bridge to the north bank, where a simple space for sitting, reflecting, talking with each other and remembering would be created
- is safe and provides an excellent space for commemorative events
- provides a strong civic statement that is an evocative and powerful
- is feasible to build within budget and does not create an adverse flood risk.
The Canterbury Earthquake Memorial was largely funded by the Crown with support from the Christchurch City Council Mayoral Relief Fund. The project partners were Christchurch City Council, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. Ōtākaro Limited managed the project and Fletcher Construction built it..
The reflective space has large established trees, new plantings and a curved seat along the path edge where people can sit quietly. They can also stroll closer to the river and able to view the Memorial Wall on the opposite side. On the south bank of the river, opposite the reflective space, the Memorial Wall made of stone is a place of remembrance. The names of those who died in the 22 February 2011 earthquake are inscribed into the stone panels. The wall also acknowledges those seriously injured, the first responders and the impacts on the wider community. The south bank area has been designed to cope with high river levels.
A significant kōhatu pounamu installation has been placed near the entrance to the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial. There is an established Māori tradition of placing pounamu at important entranceways, and the ritual of touching the stone connects visitors back to the land and all those who have been there before them. The 265-kilogram pounamu was sourced from a remote South Westland valley and gifted by Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, a Ngāi Tahu sub-tribe. It’s a special contribution to an area that will mean a lot to Cantabrians and the families of those affected by the earthquakes. The pounamu has been mounted on a plinth with a Carrara marble base. A water feature representing the mauri of wai (spiritual energy of water) sprays water across the pounamu. The water also accentuatse the rich green colour of the pounamu.