Ways of Finding and Marking
This article originally appeared in The Silver Bulletin #7.5. Though it can be read as a stand alone piece, it does follow on from Art Over Nature Over Art (TSB #7), and also introduces some themes that are continued in Out of the Shadows (TSB#8).
Matthew Galloway wrote:
Laura, there were a couple of themes I wanted to pick up on and discuss with you—ideas that came out of research for my text on the Christchurch City Council logo in The Silver Bulletin #7, but didn’t quite fit into the very specific line of inquiry that the text was following. I’m interested in the idea of how specific architectural structures almost become words—there is a language that exists around certain forms. In this way, structures have the ability to act as signifiers of meaning; and in the process become devices for wayfinding. There are two instances of this that I am particularly interested in:
1. The Steeple
I'm not sure where I heard this (and I'm hoping you might be able to qualify it for me) but I'm interested in the idea of the steeple as an example of a very intentional architectural 'word'. Traditionally, the steeple was intended as the tallest structure in a town and able to be seen from some distance, thus signifying both the centre point and the size of the community that surrounds it. It is also used to house the church bells—another communication device. The steeple, it seems, is the perfect signifier of the established English settlement—which perhaps goes a way to explaining the significance of or angst surrounding the current state of the Christchurch Cathedral.
2. The Monument
Just south of Oamaru sits the Brydone Monument—a solitary column-like structure on top of a hill. My interest here lies in the two quite specific ways in which the structure acts as a marker or wayfinding device. The first is intentional—it is designed to mark and commemorate a specific moment in time (in this case, the first shipment of frozen meat sent from Australasia to England). The second is unintentional; when travelling on State Highway 1, the monument acts as a marker by which to gage ones distance from Oamaru. In the book 'The Language of Post-Modern Architecture’, Charles Jencks talks quite specifically about this kind of column-like structure as a 'syntactic marker (standing alone, surrounded by open space)' — implying that the monumental ‘column’ is perhaps the clearest 'word' in the architectural language—it has no practical function other than to be seen; recognised for what it is.
Anyway, that's as far as I got... hopefully there's something in there for you to carry on with?
Laura Dunham wrote:
You’ve asked me what I think of the concept of physical structures acting as words and I immediately thought of Vitruvius, who wrote that “in all matters, but particularly in [the study of] architecture, there are these two points: the thing signified, and that which gives it significance.” You said you were interested in how this relates to the concept of wayfinding, via waymarkers to signify time and place, particularly as they relate to the church steeple and the Brydone Monument near Oamaru. I wanted to begin by responding to issue #7’s wider theme of cities and comprehending a city, especially Christchurch in its continual and accelerated state of transformation.
Buildings don’t always necessarily broadcast their insides, though it’s true that there is a readable architectural language on every facade and floorplan. Every structure, shape and material emanates messages, we just need to take the time to consider what they are and understand what they mean. Perhaps a façade is not only a two-dimensional form as it is reproduced on a page, or a three-dimensional one (as it physically exists), but it could also include a fourth dimension in terms of its ability to convey something else to us. This something is intangible (though tangible as it is represented by the building): concepts of time and place combined to form an identity. This is expressed by our environment, both natural and built, both of which then represent us, and in the example of the Christchurch City Council logo, both are represented and are therefore considered as things of importance to the people of Christchurch.
But are they still? Yes, it’s true that an identity is adaptable and disposable, but there seems to be an ethical dilemma of deciding what exactly could or should be disposable and then actually disposed of. What Canterbury has faced since September 4th 2010 is a fluctuating environment initiated by nature. Perhaps the subsequent demolition of so much of the region’s built environment is an unconscious attempt to re-impose human governance of the land, ‘art over nature over art,’ even bypassing legally-binding recognition of certain structures with the introduction of CERA.
The point is that landmarks, or waymarkers, are incredibly vulnerable and continuing to take them for granted leads to serious implications that affect our collective and individual psyches. Waymarkers can take the form of many things and are similarly affected by a range of stimuli. Of course, the recent Canterbury earthquakes have made repeated impacts on the state of our constructed markers, yet I would argue that it has been the actions of humans rather than nature that have had the more devastating impact; we have lost ourselves by ourselves.
Our built environment is predominantly defined by our architecture, which brings forth a range of ideas, words and messages that are symbolised by a complex architectural language that we seem to take for granted nowadays. Buildings and parts of buildings suggest, remind or just tell us things about ourselves by informing us about the places that they are in, or on, or are a part of. Communicating with their visual symbols, buildings do more than shelter us; they‘speak to us... of whatever we find important and need to be reminded of.’And we do need reminding because such an environment informs our daily actions.
The ideal example of a waymarker to signify a broader meaning is the church steeple, and by extension, the church complex itself. Perpetually serving a vital role in the community throughout history, not only does the church as a structure house worshipers during religious functions, it houses anyone who should choose to enter it, such as community groups, visitors (pilgrims and tourists alike), citizens and dignitaries. The call to worship by the sound of tolling bells is mirrored across religions (like the Islamic adhan, or call to prayer) and the very function of ensuring the maximum emanation of the bells gives us the steeple, the spire of which grew taller over time as a symbol of spiritual aspiration. The spire’s height was not intended to be the tallest structure of a settlement—this is more of a coincidental aim, though during the medieval period there were complaints about clergy who were urging their architects to build higher spires in order to compete with that of others. The proliferation of spires across Europe (another later complaint was that all one could see across the English skyline were spires) then came to represent the identity of settlements as the presence of a church in a town signified the ‘civilised’ nature of its inhabitants. Until the modern era, churches were placed next to castles and manor houses of the lords of manors, and sometimes they were deliberately sited amongst ‘pagan’ communities in order to convert them. In considering Christchurch’s Christ Church Cathedral, the site of the building was intentionally designated by Edward Jollie following a brief from the Canterbury Association and it is notable that Cathedral Square (as a square centred on its church) is one of only a few remaining in the Southern Hemisphere. That the Cathedral forms the city’s centre is a quite unique feature and I’m afraid it cannot really signal the size of the community as it was always planned to be built and even when it was, it was supplemented by the churches of other Anglican parishes (which were actually quite close to Cathedral Square, i.e. St Michael and All Angels on Oxford Terrace).
The Anglican Cathedral itself also expresses and refers to the long history of community in settlements as well as the power and extent of the British Empire and the English and Anglican origins of the city via the Canterbury Association. The Cathedral’s steeple represents all this together with its own architecturally significant Gothic Revival style, which includes a multitude of aspects throughout its 148-year history. The architects, engineers, labourers, stonemasons, carpenters, glaziers and artists who invested a wealth of time, energy and skill into its construction are conveyed by the very appearance of the building, inside and out, and of the wider Gothic Revival movement, which in itself recognised the importance of building in a national character. A sense of the region’s natural history is garnered from the combination of local materials (rimu and totara from Banks Peninsula and stone from Castle Hill and Hoon Hay) and the contemporary skills that were used to meld them. Add all this to the beliefs of the region’s settlers who footed the bill for the building, raising money for each stage of its completion, again and again. The Christ Church Cathedral is no longer just an expression of a moral and spiritual position, it is also a statement of claim (for the settlers themselves and for the settlement’s future), of identity and hope for the colony; all who were involved are memorialised in the building itself.
In the 19th century, the bells housed within the steeple acted as a waymarker for determining the time of day before the standardisation of time (think Lyttelton’s Timeball Station). They could also be heard at the beginning of a service and at the end of every wedding and funeral—serving as a waymarker, a signifier, of daily life and emphasising the importance of the church as the centre of its community. As a waymarker, or time marker, to both the 19th and the 21st century listener/observer of the bells and the spire, it prompts them to reconsider their environment, or the uniqueness of time and place that they occupy. Even though the land/buildingscape around the building evolves, and so does the building to a certain degree (with the Cathedral, it was the additions of the visitors’ centre, world war memorials and the copper spire’s weathered patina), the site and structure remains as a firm witness to all that has passed before it. Historian Michael King made the effect of such reference points clear when he said, “these relics and structures gave me a strong sense that the past was close to the present and connected to it, the two dimensions rubbing against each other to produce a frisson that animated everything one saw and felt in such a place… I felt the presence of people who had gone before... on my own doorstep.” Here is a sense of identity indicated by one's place or relationship to that place. Even King’s language indicates a sense of place, of a constructed environment that effects how we behave in such a setting. Without the reference points that make up a community, King continues, people cannot see that they have a past. They become “rootless” because they struggle to feel that their present is linked with the past, which then decreases their belief in their own future, their own posterity, making it less likely for them to behave as “socially responsible citizenry.”
For people unfamiliar with the Cathedral (i.e. tourists) a lot of time is spent taking photos of themselves in front of the west façade where the spire and rose window were prominent. The very act of photographing themselves in front of this backdrop can also be a waymarker; they can say they’ve “been there, that’s Christchurch.” The image of the Cathedral as a symbol of Christchurch is also perpetuated by the photographic medium, repeated imagery on postcards and bags market Christchurch and the Cathedral as a destination, but also as an experience of a particular time and history. They are in a sense pilgrims, and the industry relates to the great European pilgrim churches like Santiago de Compostela, where pilgrims would travel to for months, bearing the symbols of the saints’ relics they had especially gone to see (scallop shells as the emblem of Saint James at Santiago—taverns along the route would put up signs with the scallop to indicate that pilgrims were welcome there).
Yet still, despite the aftershocks, people continue to photograph the Cathedral because we ourselves (those of us who do live in Canterbury) are unfamiliar with the building in its current state. When Cathedral Square was briefly opened to the public earlier this year, it was Christchurch’s citizens who became tourists. We snapped away at the Cathedral with the hope that our photos would become memorials of a building/of Christchurch, disturbed by nature. It seems that we still want that building to exist, its potency is still fresh and continues to represent us, whether we want it to or not. Now it is a form of wayremembering.
The idea of wayfinding can be applied to any kind of environment or structure, such as the memorial cairn dedicated to Thomas Brydone on Sebastopol Hill, ten kilometres south of Oamaru, made from Oamaru stone blocks in a rough column shape. This is the second structure built to commemorate Brydone who was responsible for New Zealand’s first export of frozen meat on February 15th 1882, and the chosen site reflects the shipment’s progress from the nearby Totara Estate to London. Its prominent position at the top of a hill certainly denotes it as a waymarker of the time and distance between Totara and Oamaru and adds to the use of Sebastopol Hill by Maori inhabitants as an important site that provided commanding views of the south and west, shelter and food.
It is also interesting to note that the cairn displays the New Zealand flag, yet another layer of communication and identity. Its presence is to highlight the success of the nation’s first frozen meat shipment, however it also unintentionally makes a claim of the site itself, omitting acknowledgement of the Maori use of the site, though this is debatable because despite the Union Jack on our flag, there is also the Southern Cross constellation—a clear reference to the position of New Zealand under the stars and an acknowledged navigational tool for the first Maori settlers.
The monument’s role as a timemarker is just as significant, representing not just one specific point in time, but others too—the decision by William Davidson and Brydone, both working for the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, to make the shipment, and Brydone’s personal supervision of the whole process. Links in a chain are the moments when the butchers at Totara produced the meat, froze and transported it to Port Chalmers where the freezing plant failed after processing 600 carcasses and Brydone had to repeat the attempt all over again. Even the captain of the ship, the Dunedin, risked his life to fix the on-board freezing apparatus that had broken down in the Bahamas en route to Britain. The Dunedin, incidentally, disappeared with all 35 hands in 1890. So many choices and actions combined to form a single successful event are represented by the Brydone cairn. It is notable that some kilometres north on the roadside is another column. Hewn from a wall of limestone is a simple Corinthian column with ‘Oamaru’ carved into it to signify the town’s border. This structure also communicates to passers by that Oamaru’s main staple is limestone and that the town is keenly aware of its historic environment with the choice of a recognisable architectural motif. It is the identity of the town has been summed up by one structure, a word, or many words, such as ‘we’ and ‘here’. Both are enough of a self-statement to welcome visitors to the community.
And so what would happen if these waymarkers were to disappear? This is where I feel the term wayfinder becomes even more important. The consequences if these are removed are already being experienced. Empty sites can be found around Canterbury and even more common is the phrase, “I can’t remember what used to be there.” The demise of things that we believed were permanent affects the subconscious in many ways: confusion (lacking specific landmarks, something that existed one moment is gone the next), loss (of the structure and thereby a memory blank) and an attempt to re-place mentally what was there and what it meant to us. Ultimately, it is a disturbing sense of unsettledness that is damaging to our comfort (publicly and personally) and again it affects our behaviour. Hence we have the “we have moved to” or “yes, we are still open” signs all over the city—is this an expression of our identity? Maybe an identity in transition, but I think it certainly expresses our trauma and our overwhelming sense of disorientation.
In the 2011 draft Central City Plan, it was suggested that no future building in the CBD would be taller than the spire of Christ Church Cathedral—now that is a clear statement of hope that it would be rebuilt and reused to reattract people to the Square; that it would act as a key (if not the key) reference point, a wayfinder, again, in a post-quake environment where just about everything else has changed dramatically.
This seems to have had no impact on the Anglican Church who currently refuse to restore the building. I think it is their promotion of fear towards historic structures that is, at present, the main cause behind the vehemence that some people express towards the restoration option, rather than the idea of the Cathedral representing a distinctively British past. I wouldn’t mind unpacking the latter concept though…
Going back to where I say that it is our own actions that have had the major effect on Canterbury’s built environment, I say it because we chose to have it that way, or rather, it was chosen for us by those who had the authority to stay (unnecessary) demolition, and did not. As a consequence, the memory of all people who occupied, funded and built the historic structures that have since been demolished has been destroyed, though not entirely lost. Yet. Finally, I think there are interesting possibilities for logo #3—the dotted outline of spire—as it is the fourth time that the Christ Church Cathedral spire has been damaged. Each time previous (1881, 1888, 1901, each due to earthquakes) innovative solutions were used to repair the spire. That the current logo itself is still current indicates that the city is not ready to relinquish the Cathedral as its own, not yet anyway.
And that is all. For now.
Matthew Galloway wrote:
Where to start??? Or maybe it’s safe to say… where is left to start?
A major theme that’s coming through here, and one that was definitely at the heart of what I was talking about in the CCC logo text, is the tension between our defining of the places we inhabit and the place we inhabit defining us… and, of course, the multitude of redefinitions that follow. Important to include here is that this ‘defining of place’ is as much for those who inhabit the space as it is for those on the outside looking in.
I want to continue talking about this, but—if you don’t mind—I’m going to change tack ever so slightly.
The City that Shines
On April 6th 1990 the Christchurch City Council adopted the first version of the current city logo, at the same time introducing a new ‘sub’ slogan—‘The city that shines’—to sit underneath the already well-established ‘Christchurch: The Garden City’. When Mayor Vicki Buck unveiled the new logo, at a special ceremony in the Botanical Gardens, she explained that the idea behind the secondary slogan was to come up with something that would make the people feel proud of their city:
‘The city that shines’ does that, and it is also easily adapted for all target markets.
She also highlighted that another advantage of the logo was it could be easily translated into five different languages; in doing so illustrating the dual role of the slogan—to both promote Christchurch to the world AND promote Christchurch to Christchurch—adaptable to all target markets.
A place brand, it could be concluded, is not just about changing outside perception by trying to create/control ones first impression of a place… it is also about impressing a certain mind-set or ideological framework onto the people who inhabit that place. The intention here was that by naming Christchurch ‘The city that shines’ and urging the city’s inhabitants to ‘own’ the slogan, they would become ‘The people from the city that shines’.
As if the goal was to define the place of Christchurch in the hope it would then live up to its definition.
In this way, branding potentially becomes a partnership between a visual identity and a modality of governance—the City Council suggesting an aspirational way for citizens to see their city, a mind-set for them to inhabit, a way to live. Again, thinking about the idea of a façade, this also sets up the unthinkable scenario in which tourists turn up to ‘The city that shines’ and find that… wait a minute… this city, and its people, don’t shine at all.
Metahaven—a design think tank based in The Netherlands—talk of a similar case; their involvement in an initial focus group concerned with the re-branding of Estonia:
The discussion began with the slogan, “Welcome to Estonia,” which nobody found attractive or inspiring. Soon however it was no longer about that but about the way Estonian citizens should behave on the streets. The person in charge of the logo made no secret of her ambition to change that behaviour if she could.
Does a brand really have that kind of power? To not only lead people (tourists, immigrants) to a place… but to also change behaviour in such a way that on arrival they find all promises realised? Or is it simply a case of putting a stake in the ground before someone else gets there first… perhaps best exemplified by the cautionary tale of Kazakhstan and Borat. In the article ‘Place Branding: The State of the Art’ Peter van Ham uses that example of Kazakhstan to point out that being unbranded/unknown can lead to negative assumptions and image ‘hijacking’ by third parties. Actor Sacha Baron Cohen was able to use Kazakhstan as the home country of Borat and still effectively have a blank slate—making use of the fact that global audiences had no idea what Kazakhstan was really like. Van Ham furthers the argument by pointing out that: Cohen could easily have made a fool of other unknown countries (like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) pointing up the fact for all unbranded countries run the risk of not being in charge of their image and reputation and the inability for a country to be in full control of one’s own brand.
Paradoxically, and bringing it back home, this same ‘unknown state’ played an integral part in seducing colonists to New Zealand. Colonial New Zealand was more or less founded on boosterism and exaggeration—all anyone was able to ‘know’ of the place was based on hearsay and reports. ‘Very near to Australia,’ said Edward Gibbon Wakefield in England in 1836, "there is a country which all testimony concurs in describing as the fittest in the world for colonisation, as the most beautiful country with the finest climate, and the most productive soil; I mean New Zealand." Wakefield's New Zealand Company, which dropped off its first boatloads of settlers in the early 1840s, specialised in hyperventilating promotion. It had to, to lure migrants around the world. However, upon arriving in New Zealand, many early colonists struggled—with some avoiding starvation only thanks to Maori providing them with food. This is the gap that so often exists between brand and reality.
Of course, this brings us back to my text in issue #7 and the swamplands of the pre-colonial Canterbury Plains sitting there waiting to be defined vs. the new ‘swampland’ of the post-earthquake city. We are in a state of redefinition, and the danger—in some ways already realised—is that we rush to redefine and as you so eloquently put it, we lose ourselves by ourselves.
This rush towards a redefinition was encapsulated quite neatly in last years launch of the ‘Love Christchurch’ campaign. Billboards went up (and are still up) all over town, with familiar Christchurch locals stating ‘The Christchurch I love is still here’. My experience of the campaign may have been more acute than others—the billboards went up while I was overseas, and so, after being to some of the most beautiful and thriving cities in the world, the billboards greeted me as I drove back into Christchurch with a new perspective of what we had lost, or more accurately: what we were missing out on… what was no longer here. Did the city I lived in feel so insecure about its state of ‘un-definition’ that it needed billboards to urge its residence to ‘still love it’? Again thinking about the idea of the ‘brand gap’, these sunny billboards seemed to exist in complete opposition to the reality of the city around me.
Finally, I want to come back to ‘The city that shines’. Two days after its initial release, an article appeared on the front page of The Press under the title: Mixed reaction to new slogan. Some thought it was ok, some didn’t see the point in trying to sum up a city in ‘just a few words’, and one city tourist operator (who did not want to be named) said he thought it would not take long before ‘the shining new appendage would tarnish and drop off’. Geographer Eric Pawson, in his essay ‘Confronting Nature’, also points out that ‘The city that shines’ into a bright blue sky does so with difficulty in still, cool weather, given the build-up of airborne pollutants trapped by the temperature inversion only tens of metres above drained swamplands. By 1998 new mayor Garry Moore had announced that ‘The city that shines’ had become tired, and the slogan was dropped off of all marketing and official documents.
What strikes me the most is the perceived need for a town or city to express itself with a snappy slogan. So that the ‘product’ can be marketed to its fullest potential it needs to be accessible to a broad audience (translatable into five languages) and be able to stand out if it is going to compete with other tourist centres. Sidestepping the logo, as the visual brand, we now need to establish a caption to match—why? For the ‘readers’ of the target audience? For the logo to not appear as if it’s ‘floating’ on the page or the sign? Or to help translate the image of the logo yet again? Although if the marketer feels that a phrase to further interpret the logo is needed, does that mean that the designer hasn’t accomplished their task? As the current Christchurch logo features the spire of the Cathedral, a church, all we need to do is relate that to the name of the city and you realise that Christ Church is Christchurch (although the naming of the city refers to the college at Oxford); the signifier has already been deciphered without a slogan to those completely unaware of the city’s main attraction, for the logo is the slogan.
You are right about the contrast between the imposed local government interpretation of ‘The city that shines’ and the collective identity that Christchurch’s citizens had about themselves two decades ago. Such a stamp does not meet the reality and is barely distinguishable from the slogans of other cities that experience far more sunlight than we do. The idea that it was an aspirational branding suggests that it was the City Council that was out of touch with how residents felt about their city. Why did the CCC not just ask people what exactly made them feel proud about Christchurch? This specific objective becomes part of the façade to push forward the promotion of the city for the greater purpose of financial benefit via the tourism industry. If they truly believed that residents needed something in order to feel proud of their city, then surely just refreshing the logo was the wrong way to go about it.
And then there is the ‘Love Christchurch’ campaign, designed by the Rebuild Christchurch Foundation to “to support local businesses and the community, giving them hope and confidence for the future.” This campaign signals more of a desire to try and reassure residents, to keep more people from leaving. Referring back to the siting of the medieval church amongst pagan communities, are we who remain to be converted to the idea that we should stay because there is still something to love in Christchurch? It really just emphasises the idea that Christchurch has lost things that we love about it. And for those who have left the city, for whatever reason and for however long, does this mean that they no longer “Love Christchurch”?
Following severe damage to its shopping and business area after the September earthquakes, the township of Kaiapoi introduced a similar policy, though with a more transparent objective. ‘SHOP Kaiapoi’ ended up on signs around the Waimakariri District accompanied by a bright smiley face—a brand that could also be confused for the usual welcome-to-such-and-such signs one usually expects when entering a town. A campaign report reveals that the marketers “felt that ‘SHOP Kaiapoi ‘was a project that would be relatively simple to initiate and facilitate and have the most impact for Kaiapoi businesses. Harcourts of Kaiapoi had already designed a logo using a smiley face which was put onto posters and was visible around the town, so after speaking to them, it was decided to use that ‘brand’ as there was already an awareness with the public and businesses.” So the ‘SHOP Kaiapoi’ brand was pre-existing. No attempt to influence residents’ behaviour, apart from their commercial activities, and it stated its purpose in its own slogan and had evolved naturally, though in a relatively short space of time. This marketing strategy was a way of putting Kaiapoi’s usual ‘Gateway to the Waimakariri’ identity on hold so that it could openly face the challenge of re-energising the community; it announced to the region that the town needed help without the use of a façade—or is that this particular brand is just an honest façade?
If we contrast ‘The city that shines’ to a mid-1940s promotional brochure of Christchurch I think we can see one reason why the Garden City motif was more acceptable to residents in 1990. Over 64 pages the highlights of the city are illustrated: images of plentiful gardens, leisure activities, significant buildings, industrial progress and busy street scenes are interweaved with blurbs that proclaim Christchurch as the “city of learning”, “city of contrasts”, “the tourist centre for the South Island”, a “Christchurch pot-pourri”. And there is the key sentence, “We in Christchurch are proud of our City—‘The Garden City of the Plains’—and are pleased to issue an invitation to overseas tourists and people resident in other parts of the Dominion.” A range of different attractions/brands have been selected to represent a variety of identities contained within the city. Here, the Garden City motif is useful as an umbrella to the other attractions; when one thinks of a garden, the variety of plants, colours, forms and textures come to mind. It does not exclude anything because the image presented is inclusive by its very nature—pun intended.
Another notable point is that this publication was produced following a period of major worldwide upheaval. The city is getting over wartime restrictions, trying to reformulate itself in the light of massive loss (including the lives of one in every 150 New Zealanders). To try and define itself as a place where diversity exists indicates that Christchurch did not yet know what its identity was in the wake of such turmoil. Many brands are promoted, almost as though it was trying each one on for size (or security).
It was a beginning, to start with showcasing a variety of features, aspirational to a certain degree.
Again, I cannot help but consider how this aspirational element fits our current situation. In last year’s draft Central City Plan, Volume One was generally deemed to be the aspirational brief, as the result of a large-scale consultation with the public, while Volume Two covered the more practical side of the Plan. The ambitious part came first and was larger than its second part—another gap between brand/identity and reality.
What I think is key here is the fact that ‘The city that shines’ was imposed whereas ‘The Garden City’ brand is a tag that evolved naturally over a long period of time. No one had to come up with ‘The Garden City’, it was already there, waiting to be adopted, promoted and finally developed into the logo that we have now. I wonder if any future attempt by the CCC or CERA to create an identity for Christchurch will be just as successful…
I do like the transparency of ‘SHOP Kaiapoi’—it’s practical, it’s not brushing over the reality of the situation… instead trying to tackle it full on. And it’s interesting to compare to ‘Love Christchurch’—again it’s upfront with its intentions, but at the same time asking for something intangible like an emotion to be applied to a very concrete reality. Upon further reflection, this has brought up all kinds of questions for me, the heart of which is: can we ever love a city—is that ever a possibility? Let alone apply the very Christian ideology of ‘unconditional love’ to a place, which is basically what I interpret the ‘Love Christchurch’ campaign to be asking. Again, this falls into a similar category of the city logo or the place brand—the impossible task of defining a place with the correct emotional response, in an image, or with ‘just a few words’.
This leads on to your question about future attempts at branding Christchurch; to an extent I think they’ve already done it, again with an (unofficial) slogan... both in the 2011 draft Central City Plan and the 2012 Christchurch Central Recovery Plan—the city’s ‘blueprint’—the new city has been referred to as a ‘city in a garden’.
Finally, This brings me back to ‘The city that shines’ and my initial curiosity as to where it had come from. Was it simply a reference to the amount of sunshine Christchurch got? Or was there more to it? It didn’t seem likely, but there was an interesting link to the biblical phrase ‘a city on a hill’ and more specifically to that phrases’ popularity with American politicians—most notably in reference to Ronald Reagans aspirational image of the U.S. as ‘a shining city on a hill’. In his 1989 farewell speech to the nation he said this:
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.
Again, the city on a hill represents more than a descriptive term for a place, but an ideology, a way of life—a signifier for the kind of people who will live within the walls. Like‘a city on a hill’, ‘a city in a garden’ has a strong biblical link back to the Garden of Eden—both are visions of utopia or heaven on earth, something to aspire too.