.id insight newsletter - August 2015
How long does it take to build a city?
In Christchurch last week, almost everyone I talked to about the post-earthquake rebuild made the comment, "it seems to be taking forever". And I wondered, how long does it take to build a city? Probably not as long as it takes to re-build a city.
The thing about a catastrophic earthquake is that it destroys not only that which is visible (the buildings and bridges above the ground), but also that which is invisible (the underground infrastructure of the city). The progress of fixing wastewater infrastructure, for example, is not at all visible or as exciting as seeing new buildings going up.
It is eerie to walk around the city centre of Christchurch at night with its apocalyptic atmosphere. At 11pm, I followed the strange sound of joyous music to find a lone couple dancing beautifully to Frank Sinatra on the ‘dance-o-mat’ – a public coin-operated dance floor! This relates to the other invisible impact of a disaster – effect on the psyche of the people. But when you see things like the pop-up container mall Re-Start and the public dance floor, you have to take your hat off to the Christchurchians, they are resilient and defiant.
And finally, it does take forever to build a city because by their nature they are constantly evolving and it is a common mistake to think of our cities as finished or complete.
Here is a fascinating article in Vanity Fair about what lies below New York City: What lies beneath