Frances Woodhead bowls; Tim McGurk double basin; Pictures / Christopher Gardner.

Creation From Destruction

An exhibition of the recycled remnants of an earthquake-damaged house has an ethical message

Imagine New Zealand’s artistic and environmental potential if every demolished house was reused and remade into striking designs, architecturally inspired pieces of furniture and practical additions to homes. This is exactly what crossed the mind of the project founder and co-director of the Whole House Reuse project, Juliet Arnott, after noticing the hurried disposal and demolition of homes during the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010.

Arnott and co-director Kate McIntyre began the Whole House Reuse project with the aim to show the immense value within a typical residential dwelling that we so easily dismiss.

Together with Rekindle, a social enterprise seeking to bring positive change in the way resources are valued, and over 250 designers and craftsman from all over the country, they show how recyclable even the most mundane object of a house is, while portraying an ethical message.

So, they started small — with a typical 1970s home at 19 Admirals Way in Christchurch, they would be able to express their objective and ambition in a completely relatable and manageable way. This also means the materials used are completely emblematic of an old Kiwi home, according to the exhibition curator from Canterbury Museum, Marguerite Hill.

“The makers have worked with a wide variety of materials, from native rimu timber to electrical wiring, to reveal the beauty of the materials and to find new uses for them.”

New Zealanders including architectural designer Lyn Russell, artist Nic Moon and carver Brian Flintoff were involved in the manufacture and creation of over 400 designs which are on display in the Special Exhibition Gallery of Canterbury Museum until August 23. Hill says the museum is proud to support and host a creative exhibition with such an honorable backbone.

“The Whole House Reuse exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to support an innovative and sustainable creative project in Christchurch. The works made are diverse, creative and thought-provoking.”

Around half of the art objects will be auctioned for charity on August 24 at the Isaac Theatre Royal, while several makers will gift their works to the Buxton family — the last family who lived in the house at 19 Admirals Way.

Not only was the project a beautiful feat, it also brought to surface an important realisation that New Zealanders need to consider.

“The most important learning I had confirmed within the Whole House Reuse project is that when people act resourcefully on a large scale together we can actually create environmental impact,” says Arnott. “We can, by reusing, repairing and innovating with the resources we have, reduce the volume of new products we consume and consequently the amount of virgin natural resources being harvested.”

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