On the site that used to house the Christchurch Convention Centre there’s a curious site that’s attracting a lot of attention.
Unlike most of Christchurch’s CBD construction sites, there’s no large crane, no scaffolding and no queue of concrete mixers.
Instead there are a couple of containers doubling as office and storage, a strange sculpture of vertical strips of wood, a very large collection of reclaimed timber, and a wooden canopy over a saw bench. The only familiar sight is that of workers in high-vis vests.
This is the site of “The Temple for Christchurch” — a “large scale interactive art installation that seeks to provide a mechanism for emotional healing alongside the physical rebuilding of the city”.
Constructed from wood recycled from demolished houses, when finished it will become a place for people to share their earthquake stories and experiences by attaching photos, poems, mementos, letters from insurance companies, or whatever they feel will help them heal and move on.
At the end of the project, the Temple will be taken to a site outside Christchurch and ceremonially burnt.
The Temple for Christchurch is run from donations and grants, and staffed entirely by volunteers — many of whom have been associated with “Kiwiburn”, New Zealand’s annual equivalent of the United States’ popular Burning Man Festival.
The Temple design comes from Christchurch artist Hippathy Valentine. A visual interpretation of an earthquake’s movement through the ground, it’s based on the seismic data of the February 22, 2011 earthquake.
At completion, it will be around 40m long and 25m wide, rising to around 6m high at the peaks. But to construct it, the Temple team have around 8 cu m of timber to process.
The volunteer team has a big building job to do, especially considering the timber is all recycled — so it’s either wet or hard, or both — and full of nails.
The Temple itself will be made up of frames covered with long thin strips, ripped down from old framing from demolished houses.
Turning 8 cu m of wood into 15mm wide strips on a tiny budget is quite a task, but fortunately the Temple crew have invested in a saw bench that’s proving up to the task — an Avola TZV.
Designed and built in Germany, the Avola is a sturdy, dependable and portable saw. Avola has been making saws since 1938, and while the TZV is the smallest saw in its range, it’s perfectly suited to the New Zealand residential construction industry, especially given the ever-popular German-made Scheppach TKU is no longer available.
With a 315mm blade, 90mm cutting height and powerful 3hp motor, the Avola is no lightweight. A torsion-resistant, galvanised frame means the rigours of a building site are no problem, and options include a wheelkit or a large extension table which gives a full 1200mm rip capacity. Crane hooks come as standard!
For several months now the Avola has been proving itself on the variety of timber the Temple team are receiving from the demolition yard. Given it’s a jobbing saw rather than a high-production machine, the Avola has stood up to the long hours and heavy workload with ease.
Even the odd nail that’s been missed by their metal detector doesn’t hold the Temple team back. A quick blade change and they’re back into the rhythm, high-vis vests glinting in the sun as the Avola rips down another strip of timber destined for Christchurch’s healing fire.