Local Heart, Global Soul

March 31, 2012

Rebuilding In Style…

Filed under: History,Life,photography,Places and Sights,Travel — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In 1931 Napier city in New Zealand was faced with a huge rebuilding project after a massive earthquake levelled block after block of the city centre and fires wiped out an entire district.

There was a world-wide economic Depression and  times were tough. but as often happens after natural disasters, people pulled together to make things happen.

The website of the New Zealand Encyclopaedia   http://www.teara.govt.nz/en tells us:

“Napier’s new town centre boasted many improvements, including wider streets and some of New Zealand’s earliest underground power and telephone lines.

The loss of life caused by the collapse of so many buildings shocked the country.

Engineers studied the building damage to identify the most dangerous defects in design and construction.

A Buildings Regulations Committee developed guidelines to ensure the new buildings were safer; their recommendations were the forerunner of building codes now used throughout New Zealand.

Four rival architectural practices joined to share resources and ideas. The buildings of Louis Hay reflected the designs of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Natusch & Sons’ buildings were simple in style, often using arched windows, and Finch & Westerholm produced many Spanish mission style buildings.

Most popular was the art deco style of the time, which emphasised spare, clean lines and geometric motifs.

E. A. Williams designed some of Napier’s most striking art deco buildings.

Their austere modernistic design contrasted sharply with the ornate edifices that had caused so many deaths. “

At the time of the Napier rebuild, the term “Art Deco” had not yet been coined. It was just a style that happened to be in vogue at the time, and it suited Napier because of the contrast with the old building style and helped people move on from their bad memories of what had happened.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

As with most fashions, the world-wide preference for this style waned with time but by then Napier was left with brand new Deco style building and no cash left to change with the new fashion so their deco building stayed intact.

In the next decades some of the deco buildings were not always particularly well kept and fell into various states of  disrepair but in 1985  some people realised that with these buildings they had a hidden gem on their doorstep and so a meeting was called for interested parties to make something of the cities heritage.

This came about because of the following event … (I think I have remembered this story correctly from the tour guide, but  stupidly  I didn’t write a note about it at the time so I stand corrected if I’m not quite up with the facts )

Apparently a developer knocked down one of the deco buildings (late 1970’s or early 1980’s) in order to build something in a newer style… something went wrong when he was on the demolition site and the Deco building he was destroying killed him… (justice?)

When another Deco building was earmarked for demolition a short while afterwards a few passionate residents realised that this progression could mean the end of their Art Deco heritage buildings and wanted to take action.

Organisers had low expectations of a response  but hoped at least for a few passionate people who could form a team to raise awareness. To their amazement  1100 people turned up and the transformation of the fortunes of the Deco buildings was born with the formation of the Art Deco Trust.

Once people saw that their buildings were special and could become a tourist attraction for the community, they began to take pride again in their buildings.  Over subsequent decades the Deco Trust has gone from strength to strength and owners regularly compete to see who has the most beautifully  kept and decorated building.

The Deco buildings are now safe from demolition after being nominated in 2007 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the city boasts the title of being the world’s most consistently Art Deco city.

Let’s go see what looks like…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 30, 2012

Barton and Campbell… Tin Town and Tough Shoes To Fill…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

As you’ve gathered by now this appears by co-incidence and circumstance to be fast becoming an earthquake themed holiday. When we visited Napier was tremour free and calm for us but Mother Nature still puts out a few magnitude 5’s every year which keep the locals on their toes.

Christchurch of course is still enduring aftershocks …and decent sized ones too. Their subsequent earth wobbles have passed 10.000 in number and compared to Napier’s total of about 500 aftershocks, it’s clear to see why the de-building  (yes, I just made up a new word) and rebuilding process is taking so long down South.

All buildings in Christchurch have be checked over by structural engineers after every larger aftershock to check that it’s safe for work to continue, and as New Zealand’s second biggest city, there are many more buildings filling the Christchurch city center and Napier had no many-storied high-rises to dismantle.

Napier’s fires turned much of the debris into ash, Christchurch had to haul it’s  debris away, seperating recyclables from landfill and salvaging what it can.

Back in Napier though…  in 1931 there were  standard insurance policies for fire, storm damage and floods but only one canny Scot who owned businesses in Napier had had the forsight to have the word ‘earthquake” added to his insurance policy, so in the aftermath of the quake he got paid out and was first to get started on rebuilding his businesses.

The rest of the business owners faced financial ruin because most insurers deemed the fires to be quake damage and refused to pay out.

The New Zealand Government appointed a magistrate (Mr. J.S. Barton) and an engineer (Mr. L.B. Campbell) to be Napier comissioners and together they oversaw various committees tasked with  Napier’s reconstruction.

These two men turned out to be the right people, in tne right place, at the right time because together they efficiently supervised speedy restoration of water, sewerage, replacment of land titles (lost in the fires) and the resurvey of every property in the affected region.

In spite of the hashness of the depression years much of the money for the recovery was due to charitable donations that flooded in from fellow Kiwi’s around New Zealand.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Barton and Campbell also realised that a very speedy solution was needed if local business were to have any chance of surviving until their premisses could be rebuilt,  so they authorised the building of what was essentully a large temporary warehouse in Clive Square, a short distance from Napier’s city centre.

There had been a ladies toiet block in the park area of the Square and they quickly extended a structure around it, divided it into small booth-like sections and had local business owners draw lots for a booth, since there was not enough space in the building to go around.

The booths were tiny, but better than no premises at all and allowed for limited trading to continue whilst rebuilding of their full premises took place.

The rules were strict, the moment your new premises looked like  completion could be imminent, you lost your booth place to the next business waiting in the queue.

Since the tempory building in Clive Square was largely made out of corrugated iron and had a corrugated iron roof it was quickly dubbed “Tin Town”  by the locals  and Tin Town proved to serve Napier residents well for several years after the quake.

Many people are looking at this example of simplified organisation and drive  to get something done quickly as an example of a solution for Christchutch City facing it’s present day central city rebuild, and I wish, wish, wish it could be so simple.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sadly today Christchurch is hung up in a mountain of red tape, insurance battles, City Council in-fighting, and the two locations differ vastly when comparing the sheer scale of demolition needed, the number of business involved, the difference in size of the two city centres, the sizes and heights of the building involved in both demolition and rebuild, the populations each serves, and the number and magnitudes of aftershocks that are still taking place.

It’s not to say that it wouldn’t be wonderful if Christchurch could have a “Barton and Campbell” of their own… a few clear headed and clear minded men /women with the authority to make decisions and get things done quickly and efficiently.

But rightly or wrongly these days everyone demands to be “consulted”,  society is more democatric and more complex, rules are made to try and regulate every eventuality , but we have to remember that most people effected by any disaster aftermath  usually don’t conveniently fit the set patterns of the Rules laid down after the disaster. Every story and every need is different. It’s hard to make the recovery system work for everyone.

One is delighted that their land has been deemed Red Zone  …they can now rebuild elsewhere or relocate overseas and move on.

Another is devistated that their almost undamaged building has been lumped into a Red Zone and is fighting to stay and selvage what they can because their insurance will only pay out for the minimal damage, the rest of the property is effectively now worthless, marooned in what will shortly become no-mans land and the amount they get for the land is a pittance.

If this property represents your life savings tied up in your home, business or both, then you can see that they really are “between a rock and a hard place”.

The Christchurch situation is more complicated and the city faces an up-hill battle,  so a “Barton”and a “Campbell”  style of  inspired vision would no doubt be severely welcome.

Tin Town was an inspired solution for Napier in 1031 … it was up and running witihn months of the quake and certainly saved many businesses from going under. It’s long gone now of course,  but Clive Square stands ready should the unthinkable ever unfold here again. Let’s have a look around Clive Square as it looks today.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 29, 2012

Lessons Learned and Changes That Rippled World Wide…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

From the posts of the last few days we know what happened when the 1931  Hawke’s Bay (Napier) earthquake hit and the terrible consequences that followed.

Like many other earthquake prone cities around the world, Napier learned the hard way that their previous historical building methods were far from satisfactory …

…not that any building can be made one hundrd percent “earthquake proof” of course,  but they realised that the  traditional (European style) methods that had been used so far had some seriously fatal flaws, and the building code of the time was unsuited to the stresses that buildings would face when an earthquake struck.

Until this moment construction was mostly of the double or triple brick type which meant very little wood framing,  and for instance sash windows were set directy into brick “frames” made within external walls that also supported the roof and masonaery (rather than windows built into an independent frame that provided additional masonary support).

The double and triple-brick style of construction held up poorly during an earthquake since there was very little flexability in the structure, … walls sometimes only  joined together by dove-tailed bricks at the corners, quickly parted company during the shaking, or only had to bow outwards enough for the roof above to become totally unsupported and come crashing down.

The other crutial failure point was that verandas outside the pedestrian areas of shops were held up with poles along the street edge.

The other edge of the veranda was attached into the brickwork of the building  it belonged to with only minimal fastenings since the poles supported most of the weight.

During earthquake shaking  varranda roofs and their poles parted company with alarming speed and with so little support offered on the building side of the roof, varrandas crashed down wholesale on unfortunate pedestrians and people attempting to flee buildings.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

With lessons learned, big changes were subsequently made to the New Zealand building code, but the reprecussions also rippled out world wide.

A local change was that in the entire Hawke’s Bay area there are very few buildings over five stories high and the new building code requires heavy reinforcement in all New Zealand buildings. New strengthening techniques were also developed (a process which is still on-going today).

But if you live anywhere in the world and have a building close by where the veranda is held up with metal  strut attachments that are anchored deep into the building itself, then you have the 1931 Napier Earthquake to thank for this far safer design.

Gone are the rows of posts along the pavement, the new design eliminated them as the weight is counterbalanced by the building itself.

This makes a less cluttered pedestrian area possible, with greatly improved traffic flows: an instantly popular feature, and in an earthquake situation it’s found that since the varranda is attached and embedded into the buildings structure, it’s more likely to move with it, instead of being a seperate apendage that doesn’t.

This new method for securing verandas to buildings was quickly adopted not only in earthquake prone countries but in many countries around the world, and has subsequently saved many lives in other quakes because of the improved design.

Now when I see struts like these sticking out of a building holding up a veranda I have a far greater understanding for the reason they became necessary and know that some of the Napier lives lost,  at least contributed to the development of a safer world wide building code and were therefore  not  lost in vain.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 28, 2012

I Hope I Never Have to Walk in Shoes Like These…

Filed under: History,Life,New Zealand — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One account that our guide gave us of what happened directly after the Napier Earthquake was especially graphic and heart-wrenching.

A lady was in the Napier church when the quake struck and was trapped alive but pinned under tons of masonary. She was known to some of the people who tried desperately to rescue her and they got someone to race off and find her grown son who worked close by.

He survived the quake and arrived to also try and help with the rescue of his mother.

With no heavy lifting equipment available it became clear that they were never going to get her out.

She was semi-concious, clearly dying slowy from her massive injuries and in an inhuman amount of pain.

Time ran out when they realised that the cities now rampant fires had taken hold of the buildings around the church and the church itself was starting to burn. Someone ran to the  hospital a short distance away to get a Doctor … who was compelled to break the Hippocratic oath and give the poor woman a lethal dose of morphine to put an end to her suffering and to ensure that she would not burn alive when the now rapidly approaching fire reached that part of the church.

It must have been a heartbreaking decision, and truly traumatic for everyone involved. (How aware the woman was, or not, of what was happening around her at that point wasn’t specified or maybe even known) . How horrific to have had to make such a decision and I’m sure that her son and the Doctor would have struggled with it until their dying day.

I’m going to try and remember this whenever I think I have a tough decision to make, and realise that in the scale of “tough stuff”, that whatever I’m faced with pales into insignificance compared  to what people like these had to deal with.

There’s always going to be someone somewhere facing a dilemma far far greater than mine. Walking  in someone else shoes might involve carrying a weight heavier than we would ever imagine bearing.

Perspective is a mighty valuable tool in Life is it not?   I fear it’s a tool that is severely  under-used.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 27, 2012

Napier Wasn’t Just One Disaster, But Two…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yesterday’s post was about the physical upheaval that happened around Napier when the 1931 earthquake struck.

To better understand the sequence of events that followed  the quake and the long term repercussions, we first need to look at the damage that was done.

In the years preceding the quake early colonial settlers built first from wood, as local Maori had done before them since wood was plentiful.

However these buildings were prone to fire, and since the colonists were traditionally used to building in brick and stone, these slowly became the materials of choice for civic buildings, shops and many houses.

Many factors came into play during the quake, not least the magnitude and the length of the shaking, but the construction methods used in the brick and stone buildings were by far the least satisfactory when compared to their wooden counterparts and the brick and stone buildings killed and wounded many people.

Of course it’s hard to expect any building to withstand an almost three meter upward shift of the ground beneath it so it’s hardly surprising that the damage was so severe. According to our guide however, the fires that broke out due to gas leaks compounded the disaster by an even bigger magnitude because victims buried alive had no chance against the rapidly advancing flames.

The fires broke out in a few isolated locations at first and were almost completely bought under control by firemen and volunteers but in a cruel twist of fate the wind picked up at a crucial moment as other gas leaks began new blazes and soon whole parts of the city were in flames.

The Napier tramway was so badly damaged that it was never rebuilt, and people were forced to live in tents for some time after the quake…

I learned a smattering about the Napier earthquake when I was at school, but compared to what I have learned so far today it was just a passing glance of information, a real shame because I feel sad that this happened so comparatively recently (our grandparents and great-grand parents generation) and how quickly these events could be forgotten (or at least not given the true depth of study they deserve by subsequent generations).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 26, 2012

Land Reclamation, Mother Nature Style…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There’s a reason why we have chosen to visit Napier. I was last here as a teenager and remembered small parts of my time here, but wanted to revisit as an adult so that I could really learn more about the city.

It’s especially relevent that we arrive now, shortly after having been in large earthquakes in Christchurch, because the biggest reason that Napier is world famous because of an earthquake.

I want to do one of the guided walking tours that are available here but realise that  of course “walking” isn’t my strong point at the moment so have to work out if this is going to be feasable.

Once our kids caught sight of a playground and a mini-golf establishment, they and Himself decided that that was more their cup of tea than information on city architecture and historical events and so we arranged to meet up some hours later and went temporarily on our seperate ways.

The only good thing about having been on on crutches for a year now, is that my arms sport some decent muscles and are now no longer just rubbery apendages and I can stand on my right foot for ages if I have to.

I descide to do the walking tour for several reasons… first  is that the cental area of Napier is surprisingly small, second: all I want to do at first is to keep up and listen to the guide, I intend to have a rest afterwards and then retrace my steps slowly taking photos, so I don’t need to do both at once.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The tour mostly involves moving very short distances to the next place our guide next want to talk about, a pause whilst she does so, this means I can stand on one leg whilst still and use my arms whilst moving and my foot isn’t going to touch the ground at all during this exercise.

(This kind of movement is what my physiotherapist calls “sneaking” as it involves no real work for my foot and so she wouldn’t approve of this, but in this case I think she would conceed that it will be the only way I will be able to manage.) It’s still hard work and tiring, but do-able for once or twice every now and again.

After the tour I will be sitting in the van and the extra space means I can put my foot up and rest, rest, rest…

The reason that Napier is a tourist attraction these days is largely down to the fact that it is one of the most beautiful Art Deco cities in the world.

The reason for that happening was that the city was rebuilt in the Art Deco style in the rebuild after the Tuesday February 3rd, 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake (also known as the Napier Earthquake).

The 7.8 magnitude quake had many profound effects … not least of course the deaths of 256 people but in today’s post I want to talk about one of the most geographically noticable effects.

Our guide showed us into an exhibition  at the Deco heritage centre, where we saw a film and photo’s of before and after the quake.

Until now,  I never realised that Napier used to be situated on a large lagoon called the Ahuriri Lagoon which was in effect a natural harbour, fishing and recreational area.

The quake shook the area for two and a half minutes and lifted 2230 hectares of land up ( 5 510.450 acres) more than 2.7 meters ( 8.8 feet) , resulting in the sea water rushing out of the lagoon, which was left as a new landmass complete with many poor surprised fish doomed to flounder on sea floor mud that was now dry land.

This area is today Napier’s airport, a light industrial area, an area of housing and farmland.

Apparently there had been a large regatta the days prevous to the quake on Ahuriri Lagoon, an event that had involved many of the town’s inhabitants and there were still many small boats from the regatta left moored there.

These were all left high and dry when the land rose up and people were amazed to see the very place where in the weekend they had raced their boats, now a large expanse of dry land.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Just as shocked as the floundering fish were the sailors aboard the New Zealand Royal Navy ship HMS Veronica, who also found their ship instantly dry-docked by Mother Nature, but their presence saved many many lives because the ship had independent radio equipment which undamaged, was used to radio for help within minutes of the quake.

Cargo ships and two cruisers were immediately diverted to assist and bought doctors, nurses, rescue equipment, food and tents.

The Veronica‘s sailors were also instrumental in helping the towns survivors to fight the many fires that broke out, rescue trapped people and treat the injured.

Personally, even in spite of having recent experience with large earthquakes, I find it really hard to comprehend just what it must have been like to be in a quake that within minutes, lifts you and the ground you are on, about  three meters higher than your previous position. I’m not sure it’s if gobsmackingly amazing and I should be in awe or  if it’s just downright scary.

It’s also more than a tad ironic that the Dutch half of my heritage represents a nation who are famous for building up  large areas of their own country through land reclamation…

The Dutch spend decades and centuries lifting land out of the sea… but in Napier Mother Nature did it in two and a half minutes.

Sadly her price tag for this feat of natural engineering was that the city also fell, claiming lives. Efficient? Most certainly, but to my mind (sigh, if there was ever there was a choice)… definitely far too high a price to pay.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 25, 2012

Napier: Deco City Motor Lodge, We will be Back!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are staying in Napier at the Deco City Motor Lodge… … the only rooms left are up a flight of stairs but I’m not going out tonight so one flight is do-able on sticks.

There’s a double bed in the main room and two singles in the adjoining one and a large bathroom.

Everything is well laid out except for one large door-stopper in the toilet /bathroom that’s positioned a bit too close to where your right foot wants to be when sitting on or getting up from the throne.

We repeatedly warn each other not to trip over it when the door is closed so that we don’t end up with an extra set of crutches in the back of the van.

For the rest everything is clean, comfortable and easy to navigate.

We arrived a bit later in Napier than we intended and had to search for almost half and hour for accommodation that had space,  so everyone is now  tired and hungry. Himself and the kids unload baggage whilst I take photos of the room upstairs and in no time we are settled in.

Before we eat the kids plead for a swim in the small swimming pool they spied on the left as we drove in, and investigation revealed that the pool was open for only another 27 minutes so they threw clothes around the bedroom, hauled on their swimming costumes at breakneck speed and raced out the door  to the pool.

The water in the pool  was unheated and whilst it’s been a reasonably warm day today, it was getting towards dusk when they plunged in and discovered that “fresh” was  rather too genteel a word to describe it,  their squeals and shrieks of shock probably disturbed half the motel. (sorry everyone)

They were really determined  to swim until the pool closed but lasted about 15 minutes, before scuttling back to the room shivering and heading for the shared bath that I already had filling  because I “guessed”  they might need one after hearing  how cold the water was.

There’s been a unanimous decision after the swim for an easy dinner of fish and chips and Himself remembered seeing a take-a-way a short distance away so he sprints off to procure our dinner forthwith.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The wifi is good so I check my email and sit on the bed with my foot  up typing a blog post…

…the kids find cartoons on the TV and blob out for half an hour after dinner, but after that everyone is so tired that it’s light’s out and I think all of us were fast asleep within minutes.

We had a great night’s sleep and packed up early the next morning because we want to go exploring  before we hit the road.

Clinton and Robyn were really nice about giving us some extra milk (the kids polished off all the milk with dinner the night before), and also very helpful with tourist information and how to get where we wanted to be,  so I already know where we want to be staying if we go back to Napier again.

Owner / Hosts: Robyn & Clinton Green Deco City Motor Lodge Address: 308 Kennedy Rd, Napier

Phone: +64 6 843 4342

Fax:+64 6 843 7565    //  Reservation Freephone (NZ Only):0800 536 6339     //   Email:decocity@xtra.co.nz

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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