14 May 2015

'A place for remembering'

6:25 am on 14 May 2015

A woman badly injured in the February 2011 earthquake questions the use of a heavy wall in the design of the new Canterbury Earthquake memorial.

The winning design for the Canterbury earthquake memorial.

The winning design for the Canterbury Earthquake memorial. Photo: SUPPLIED / Cera

A design by Slovenian architect Grega Vezjak, The Memorial Wall, has been selected from a shortlist of six designs.

The 150-metre wall, winding along the curve of the Avon River in the central city, will be inscribed with the names of the 185 people who died in the earthquake, and will mention those who came to people's rescue on the day and those who were badly injured.

Ann Brower was injured when the bus she was on was crushed by a collapsing brick wall, killing eight other passengers.

She said the memorial looked beautiful, but she questioned whether the designer had thought about what walls symbolise to people in Christchurch.

"In the earthquake, most of the people who died were crushed by big heavy things suspended above them, which fell on them," she said. "So there's some irony to commemorate that with a big tall heavy object."

Marie Foldesi's husband Ian died when he was hit by rocks on the Port Hills during an aftershock. She also has reservations about the wall and said she wished they had chosen something by a local designer. But she thinks the location is lovely.

"I think the site is beautiful, it's by a river, by water. I think the whole site and the whole enviroment are quite lovely. It's all about nature in the end. The only true healing thing in life is nature."

The design includes a pedestrian bridge leading to a secluded area on the north bank of the river, where people can take a quiet moment of reflection.

Maan Alkaisi, whose wife Maysoon Abbas was killed in the CTV building, said that was included at the suggestion of the family members of those who died.

Mr Alkaisi said the chosen design had many strengths but there was also opportunity for improvement.

He said there would feedback from families of those who died. "It's a very long wall, and it needs some detail to make it more attractive, I would say,"said Mr Alkaisi.

The Development Director of the memorial, Rob Kerr, said over the next few months a number of missing details will be firmed up, which will all add to the memorial.

"Particularly for this type of thing, a memorial, the beauty is in the detail," said Mr Kerr. "So things like how the names are represented, configured and laid out, the font.

"The acknowledgement of the first responders and those who saved and helped people. And how we tell stories and relate to all the other palces of memory about out region."

The memorial designer, Grega Vezjak, said he was feeling the pressure of designing something so important for a city and its people.

"I really hope it could be helpful for the families... and for the seriously injured people.

"But also for Christchurch and Canterbury. I hope it will be a special experience or place."

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the memorial would form part of the Avon River Precinct, between Montreal St on the corner of Oxford Tce, and Durham St South.

He said the site was the perfect place for reflection and was well supported by the public.

"It will be a place for remembering and memory for many generations to come."

The reflection area will be completed by February next year, while the whole memorial is expected to be finished and officially opened on the sixth anniversary of the quake in 2017.

Rob Kerr from Christchurch Central Development Unit (left) and Grega Vezjak at today's announcement.

Rob Kerr from Christchurch Central Development Unit (left) and Grega Vezjak announcing the chosen design. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy