Christchurch, New Zealand

competition, selected design

built 2017

The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial has been a priority for the New Zealand Government and a key feature of the city’s regeneration.

Oi Manawa, meaning “tremor of the heart”, is a place to reflect on the 2010/2011 earthquakes that changed Greater Christchurch forever. It pays respect to those who lost their lives, those who were seriously injured and survivors. The memorial also acknowledges the shared trauma and the support received during the response and recovery that followed.

The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial has been designed as two distinct areas either side of the gentle curve of the Ōtākaro/Avon River. A park space on the north bank, with trees, seating and gardens looks across the river to the sunny memorial wall area on the south bank.

The south bank area is a place of remembrance. Facing the sun, the memorial wall extends 112.6 metres along the curve of the Ōtākaro/Avon River. A stepped terrace with seating and maple trees separates the 3.6-metre high memorial wall from the river. The south bank area has been designed to accommodate variable river levels.

The park space on the north side of the river is an area where people can reflect, sit quietly, walk closer to the river and view the memorial wall area on the opposite bank. It has large established trees, new plantings and a curved seat along the path near the river. The park also provides a large gathering space for civic commemoration events. The Montreal Street bridge links the north bank and south bank areas.

“The experience of the memorial can be viewed as a journey. A place to remember and to find peace – a place of past and future…

…you descend down the ramp, leaving the hustle of the city at the street level to enter a quieter space. On the sunny terrace, with the sound of the river, you can take in the memorial wall or sit among trees and mourn or reflect. This is a sheltered and serene place that bereaved family and friends, and others impacted by the earthquakes, can experience in peace…

The design provides a connection to the water, symbolic of life and its infinite nature. This was achieved by leaving the street area at its level, cutting into the earth and erecting a wall that enables a memorial place close to the water.

Although this is a place of sadness it is also a place of beauty, graced by the gentle river flow, full sun and the delicate shadows cast by trees. The space is also a celebration of life. I hope that with its shape and space, the memorial invites and embraces people from near and far, bringing them together for remembrance.”

Grega Vezjak