The Temple for Christchurch

Temple for Christchurch conceptual rendering

A temple is being built in Christchurch, New Zealand, commemorating the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that devastated that city in February 2011, killing 185 people.

Inspired by the ritual of Burning Man’s temples, and a recipient of a 2012 Black Rock Arts Foundation grant, the Temple for Christchurch will serve as a sacred space where people can leave mementos and write on its walls before witnessing its eventual burning. The intention is to help residents of Christchurch reflect upon and come to terms with the aftermath of the disaster.

Architectural mapping of Richter scale waveforms

Artist Hippathy Valentine designed the Temple as an architectural interpretation of the Richter scale waveforms that were created by the earthquake itself — and it symbolically stands 6.3 meters in height at its peak. Fittingly, it’s being constructed on one of the many empty demolition sites that now are common in Christchurch. Its modular design allows the structure to be taken apart and reconstructed in the New Zealand countryside, where it will be burned.

Watch this video clip by 3 News New Zealand to learn more about the Temple for Christchurch. If you’d like to donate to the project, click here.

About the author: Will Chase

Will Chase first attended Burning Man 2001. He volunteered as the Operations Manager for the ARTery (Black Rock City’s art headquarters) and was on the Burning Man Art Council from 2003-2008. He was Web Team Project Manager and Webmaster from 2004-2009, then transitioned to the Communications Department in 2009 to become Minister of Propaganda, working on global communications strategy. He's the editor-in-chief for the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter and the Voices of Burning Man blog, and content manager for Burning Man’s websites. He also manages the ePlaya BBS and Burning Man’s social networking efforts.

6 thoughts on “The Temple for Christchurch

  • This is fascinating.
    I wonder how well the whole Burning Man cultural phenomena that is the mourning and subsequent burning of the memorial will carry over to standard New Zealand culture.
    It is a shame if they have to disassemble it and reconstruct it elsewhere in order to do the burn.
    IMHO, this whole concept of an ethereal memorial that goes up in smoke and flames taps some deeper emotional levels in the human psyche.

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  • The whole devastation at Christchurch has fallen off the the public radar. The second earthquake completed the damage caused by the first one. Many buildings have not been rebuilt, so pop-up businesses have appeared out of shipping containers, along with murals and vegetables gardens.

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  • The whole devastation at Christchurch has fallen off the the public radar. The second earthquake completed the damage caused by the first one. Many buildings have not been rebuilt, so pop-up businesses have appeared out of shipping containers, along with murals and vegetables gardens.

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  • The people of Otautahi/Christchurch are struggling with the affects off over 11,000 quakes over a 2 year period. 75% of the central city will be rebuilt and 10,000’s of homes having to be rebuilt mostly in the eastern Suburbs. The process and progress to a new city and new lives is extremely slow and difficult for so any. Many themselves are suffering from depression, PTSD, and all the illness attached to such horrible time in our history. This project is a new learning for us, a way of dealing with our worrys and hurts and needs and terrible grief. I am very excited that this is happening in our city and look forward to being part of it building in what ever way i can. Yes we are a very conservative city but we are learning new ways and this project is leading that way.

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  • While certainly a thoughtful gesture, and an equally provocative design, am I the only one who thinks that, perhaps, the money would be better spent building and repairing permanent structures instead? Or preserving the art piece, rather than burn it?

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