Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A visit to Bexley

Bexley was never my favourite suburb. Some of it was the usual social housing, been there for many decades. Some of it was relatively new - pretty flash houses by East side standards, kind of low grade McMansions, mostly single storey two car garage four bedroom two bathroom media room neutral colours throughout brick and tile with nice lawns and about ten to fifteen years old. Not my kind  of thing (you can tell, can't you.)  It was the classic suburb designed for cars. There were no amenities within the suburb itself and little public transport. The streets have names that don't have street in them - like Seascape Gardens and Forestwood Mews and Fairpark Briars.* The suburb was hastily built by private developers and even then there was some controversy about how easily the city council had approved it. Given that it was built on ground even swampier than most of Christchurch, right next to a wetland, and all that. And given that the developers were not required to dig as deep as they might. This part of Bexley was built to fail.

Students of town planning would go there for university field trips to be shown a housing development that was doomed. And doomed it was. The February earthquake turned it into a sodden mess. For a long time it was tidal; people's houses would flood twice daily. The houses didn't exactly fall down, but the land turned into jelly beneath them. And it stank, and there was no power and no drainage and no water and half the time the roads were closed. And then it was gradually abandoned. People took the money and went. The electricity was unhooked. The postal services stopped. Now it is almost empty.

i didn't go there for nearly two years, because i didn't want to go and look at people's misfortune. But i rather like urbex and i am attracted to abandoned places such as Gary, Indiana, which emptied out towards the end of the last century leaving all its public buildings and inner suburbs like a modern ghost town.

Recently i took two trips to Bexley. It wasn't particularly Kiwi Gothic. It was just sad. People's hopes and dreams had been tied up in those houses. Now the lawns were wild and dry and the houses just looked sunken and hollowed out, starved of humanity. Nothing was in ruin exactly, just abandoned. There were small poignancies - a picture of a monster and the words 'Please let us live here' written on an inside kitchen wall - a floor mat concreted into the pavement by the liquefaction long gone. i didn't take any photos. None of it was photogenic, and all of it once belonged to someone who cared about it.

i did take these photos, of something a bit more Ruin Porn. This is the Holiday Inn, which is situated in the very damaged Avon Loop area.

* What the hell is with that? Why aren't streets called streets any more? And why are the new streets so ironically named? If a street is named to evoke the golden nostalgia of the countryside, like Forestheath Briars, for pity's sake,  you can guarantee it's a sterile little cul de sac lined with nearly identical McTickyTacky houses devoid of any real aesthetic sense. And what is a Briars? What sort of word is a Briars? And as for Mews - a mews is an actual thing. A mews is a converted stable. Not a horse in sight i'm afraid. i suppose the idea is to hint at the sort of wealth that implies we once had a stable, so people think we might be country gentlefolk. What would i know. i live in Linwood, after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment