Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Gables, Diamonds and Staples

One of the projects I have been helping out with so far is the repair of the gable ends- there are quite a few! Unfortunately, many of them did not survive the three major quakes (Sept 10, Feb 11 and July 11) overly well. 

As the majority of the Arts Center is listed as Category I (i.e. it has outstanding national value - for the British, it is equivalent to our Grade I) in order to retain the original facade and, consequently authenticity, those stones that can be replaced in their original setting, will be. 

To do this, the stonemasons give each individual gable end a code and then as the stones are taken down each one gets an individual number:  

For example, CB3 would be the Clock Tower, gable 3 and AA2 is the Boys' high, gable 2. 

Then, when the stones are taken down, each number is written on the reverse of the respective stone and then stored on a palate.  They have a particular area the numbers have to be written on so that 6 does not become 9, etc. 

The numbers are then carved into the stone with a (very scary) cylindrical Dremel drill that is coated in diamond dust so it can with stand the strength of the original stone (basalt or bluestone, see previous post). 

Now, this drill, can drill. I was honestly scared for my fingers! It is also incredibly easy to break; the slightest bit of pressure in the wrong place and the diamond dusted bit goes flying - eye protection is a must! - unfortunately I managed to do this on my first go, but it was fixable so I was forgiven. 

After the number is carved out, it is then painted over so it can withstand the elements and be easily seen. 

Yes, that is me with my very fetching hard hat and high vis.

The palates are then stored until it is time for the stones to be replaced in-situ. In order to quake strengthen them the stones are being "stapled" to both themselves and the roof structure, so that if there is another quake they will not break forward. Hopefully. 

All of the images are courtesy of the Arts Center!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Arts Centre, Christchurch

Yesterday, I proudly showed you my stone carving creation that I did whilst working at the Arts Centre. Today I will introduce you to the sight. I know I should have done this the other way round, but hey, I am breaking with tradition. 

Image courtesy of the Arts Centre 

This is the campus circa 1940, when the University of Canterbury still occupied the site. 

Severely damaged in the Feb 2011 quake, the site now has a repair budget of just under $300m. 

All of the above images are courtesy to the Arts Centre

It is a palimpsest of architectural styles that all hark back to the Gothic Revival. The first building to be constructed on site was the Clock Tower in 1877 and modifications and additions continued well into the 1960s. 

Google images 

At the moment, the interior clock mechanism and face have been removed and it is covered in scaffold. 

It was originally built for the first Canterbury College, later the University of Canterbury, before its move to Ilam in the 1970s. Parts of the site were also used as a boys and girls high school (these were, naturally, at opposite ends of the campus; boys to the bottom left and girls to the top right of the site image). 

Some of the most famous students include Ernest Rutherford, aka "Father of the Atom"; Helen Connon, the first Canterbury women to graduate with a BA, and Sir Apirana Ngata, NZ's first Maori graduate.

Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort was the appointed architect for the earliest parts of the campus. Arriving from England in 1850 at the age of 25, he was highly influenced by Pugin's notions of gothic architecture. Consequently, Mountfort's designs for the college were high victorian gothic, using Port Hills basalt for the main structure and Oamaru limestone for the decorative elements. 

The Great Hall was formerly opened in 1882 and for anyone from the UK (i.e. me) it brings forth nostalgia for the Oxbridge cities. 

Google Images 

Currently the tower has been removed to the level of the guttering on the great hall, and at the moment quake strengthening is being undertaken by adding concrete and steel pins through the buttresses and roof. 

It continues in the gothic style of the Clock Tower, but at the same time incorporates aspects of early french gothic design. The most notable of this is the tower currently sitting on the pavement of Rolleston Ave. 

So far I have only been here for a few weeks, but it is an amazingly quirky site and I feel privileged to be able to participate in its conservation and repair. 

I know this is a very brief introduction, but honestly, I could be here for days. However, I will keep you updated on the progress as it moves along and you can also see daily updates here

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Stone Carving

So, I have made it to Christchurch in one piece after travelling round NZ on a bus with some excellent people.

Last week I started work with the Arts Centre (there will be more on this, promise). But, just quickly.....yesterday they let me in the stone carving tent for the afternoon to work with Jeff (one of 7 stonemasons), after a while he let me have my own go at carving a piece of string course. This is the end result.........


Okay, so it's not the smoothest (or straightest) string course that ever existed, however, as it is my first attempt I am very proud of my little creation and consequently it sits beside me on the floor at my desk (well for now any way).