Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Christchurch's "Cardboard" Cathedral

I wrote about Christchurch last year and commented on the shock I felt at seeing the devastation this city suffered from the massive earthquake of February 2011.
The Anglican Cathedral was the much loved centre piece of
Cathedral Square.  After the earthquake it was so badly damaged
that it is has been deemed irreparable
 I was back there recently and it was good to see that the city's rebuild is progressing well.  It will be a long slow job and, as yet, there is not much to see in the way of new buildings but the city is buzzing.  It has a skyline filled with construction cranes and all around the city foundations are being poured  for new buildings to replace demolished ones. I was particularly interested to see the "Cardboard" or Transitional Cathedral built as a temporary home for Christchurch's Anglican community after their beloved cathedral was devastated in the earthquake that rocked the city.

Designed free of charge by Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, who is well known for his post disaster architecture, and in association with Christchurch architects, Warren and Mahoney, the very name "Cardboard" conjures up an image of a less than substantial,  flimsy structure.  When details emerged of a "cardboard" Cathedral to be built as a temporary replacement for the solid stone Cathedral, a famous icon of the city, many of the public were disbelieving.  And when, during construction and before the roof was completed, some of the cardboard tubes got wet and had to be replaced, they nodded sagely muttering "I told you so".  But how wrong they were.
The simple interior with cardboard tubes beams
 The design of the seats echos the tubular construction

The cathedral is a solid structure built in an A frame style.  The steeply pitched frame consists of 2 foot diameter cardboard tubes which are reinforced with wooden beams and then coated with polyurethane and fire retardants.  The beams, covered by a polycarbonate roof rest on 8 shipping containers which have been converted to provide office space and storage rooms.

The stained glass using images from the old cathedral's rose window

At the entry to the cathedral there is a large brightly coloured stained glass window made up of triangles and featuring images from the rose window in the damaged cathedral.
The Cathedral seats 700 and has been designed to be multi-purpose so that as well as being used for regular church services it also serves as a much needed concert and conference venue.

Even the pulpit is constructed from cardboard tubes
I was mightily impressed by the Cardboard Cathedral.  It is simple in the extreme, a calm, peaceful non-pretentious place.  While debate rages over the future of the old cathedral, although it now appears  that it will be completely demolished, this is an ideal stop-gap measure.  I am betting that the locals become very fond of their Cardboard, Transitional Cathedral and will be reluctant to see it go when they do eventually get a brand new Cathedral in Christchurch's main square, on the site of the old one.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Kayaking in Kas

The trip through Turkey had been busy until now so we were all looking forward to a couple of days relaxation in the gorgeous seaside town of Kas.  Kas (pronounced "cash") is synonymous with bougainvillea in Turkish and the town certainly lives up to it - long, trailing, delicate fronds of pink and white bougainvillea adorn many of the buildings in town, including our hotel.  The idyllic view from our hotel was of a ridiculously blue bay with boats anchored inshore and a lonely Greek island just off shore.  Apparently the Greek government pays its handful of residents to live on this island in order to keep it in Greek hands. Our sumptuous breakfast on the top floor, open sided restaurant, watching as the golden sun rose to bathe the town, was certainly a wow moment.

View from our hotel restaurant

Looking at the sunken city

But, no time to linger, we were off for a kayaking adventure.  I love kayaking so was excited about this, especially the part where we were to kayak over a sunken city.  A short drive from Kas, a quick kayaking lesson for beginners and we were off.  Ok, well the sunken city was a bit of a non event.  There was nothing to see apart from a couple of large underwater rocks which, we were told, were masonry, but the 3 and a half kilometre trip on flat, crystal clear water, to our destination, a small island, was everything I hoped it would be.

"Zorba" and our guides
We were trailed by an old put-put boat skippered by a rotund, jolly old man in a captain's hat.   His role was to make sure we were safe and with his weathered face and missing teeth he looked like a character in a movie so we nicknamed him Zorba.  We pulled up on the tiny, rocky island for lunch.  I couldn't help thinking that it was the sort of place you see on postcards and wish you were there - and, well, we were! It had all the necessary postcard requirements - a sheltered cove, clear aqua green sea and a white stony beach with  the
                                                                                       occasional stone ruin here and there

Tired after our long kayak we dived into the delicious sea for a swim while our kayak guides prepared a picnic lunch of dolmas, olives, stuffed peppers, fat, juicy tomatoes, cold meat, cheeses and bread.  There was just time for another swim and then we were off kayaking again to Simena, about 1 kilometre away. 
Simena castle, overlooking the bay

Simena, with a ruined castle on top of the hill, dates from the 4th century BC.  It was quite a climb to the castle in the searing heat but worth it for the view which looks out over Lycian tombs on one side and has panoramic views of the bay and coastline on the other.  Then it was back down again for welcome ice creams before starting out to kayak home.


We circled a partly submerged Lycian tomb close to shore and then made our way out into the bay.  By now the wind had come up and the sea was choppy.  It was hard, exhausting work with waves breaking over our kayaks - a bit scary really, but because I was the only one in a single kayak a guide stayed with me all the way back.  This was an unexpected bonus because he led me to a secret spot to view sea turtles swimming happily in a sheltered cove.

Setting off from Simena, unaware of the hard work ahead.

I was thrilled to finally make it to shore, albeit well behind the others.  We had kayaked for over 7 kilometres - not bad, not bad at all!  Zorba celebrated our safe return with an impromptu waltz along the beach with one of our group, much to our amusement. So, not exactly a rest day but a wonderful day all the same.  Back to the hotel to hot showers, a stunning sunset and a romantic dinner overlooking the bay at The Sultan's Garden, an open air restaurant bedecked with floating panels of fine white cotton and softly lit Turkish lanterns.  This is the life!  I decided there and then I could stay in Kas a week, or a month, or maybe even a year!

                                             The town of Kas with a Greek Island in the bay.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Giant's House Sculpture and Mosaic Garden, Akaroa, New Zealand

The Giant's House
Hidden away up a side road about a kilometre from Akaroa township is this colourful and unexpected gem.  The Giant's House stands high on a hillside overlooking a valley and was named by a little girl who one day looked up at it and said it was so big a giant must live there. Built for a bank manager in 1880 from native timbers milled from the local area it is a magnificent house, currently operated as a Bed and Breakfast and function centre. 

The mosaic piano, with a mirrored lid to show off the succulents
planted inside it,  plays jazzy music as you wander the gardens

But it is not the house which astonishes the visitor (it is off limits to all but staying guests)  it is the spectacular garden filled with vibrant mosaic statues which takes the breath away.  The garden and sculptures are the work of well established artist, Josie Martin, who has spent 14 years developing them from scratch.  Josie originally bought the house for its size and wall space, which was perfect for displaying paintings, but when she began to dig the garden and discovered broken pieces of old china she decided to use them by trying her hand at mosaics. Pleased with the look of her first mosaic, her front door step, she then went on to "carpet" the conservatory. 

From those small beginnings the garden has grown to become a joyous, vibrant, surreal world peopled with lively, larger then life size, mosaic characters which are discovered up enticing stairways and along winding mosaic paths. It is cookie, eccentric, flamboyant and absolute fun with a capital F, a happy place.  I walked around the garden with a big smile on my face.

Overview of the terraced garden
The garden is an ever evolving work of art which Josie develops with the help of local craftsmen who build her designs from reinforcing steel and concrete which she then completes with colours, tiles, mosaics, lights and mirrors.  A new addition to the gardens is a contemporary art gallery where some of Josie's work is displayed.

The plantings are also colourful and perfectly groomed.  I was entranced by the glorious, fragrant, sweet peas, roses and bougainvillea twirling around pillars and posts at the time of my visit.  Even the toilet is interesting with the walls and ceiling covered in the (invited) signatures of guests to the gardens.  The Giants House is a "must see" if you are in Akaroa.   Initially I thought the $20 entrance fee was a bit steep but on reflection I think it was money well spent for the pleasure it has given me every time my mind has wandered back to my visit.... and I smile.

The gardens at 68 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa  are open from 12pm to 5pm in summer and 2pm to 4pm in winter