On Friday I went for my regular lunchtime wander though town.
See what’s going on, what’s opened, who’s around. Abuse the Tom Ford perfume samples in Ballantynes. Get lunch from the most obscure looking food van in the Square ($8 samosas in chickpea curry thank you very much). Regret not bringing a coat (cos I’m sure it was warmer when I left the office, bloody hell that wind is cold). You know. The usual.
As I came up Cashel Mall towards Colombo Street a familiar but forgotten sound could be heard: The whirring of heavy machinery, a grunty crunch, the heavy thud and bang of a literal ton of dropped concrete. A sound that we used to hear every single day. It just became our background soundtrack, like some kind of really screwed up elevator music.
It’s the sound of our old pal – demolition.
I thought we were done with all that? There’s nothing left to be knocked down, is there? Demolition is *SOOO* 2012, darling.
But sure enough, as I got further up the mall, popping out from behind a hoarding twere the yellow arms of the demo cranes, chomping away at the concrete and steel, all scary and dinosaur like.
And what was the Pagoda Court building, sitting abandoned and stripped out, since 2011, until as recently as Tuesday, when I last saw it, was now just a huge mound of broken gnarly pillars and rubble.
I think you’d be really surprised how quickly they can destroy a building.
I’d forgotten about Pagoda Court. It existed, in limbo, right in front of me, for the past 7 years, but you just got so used to it sitting there, empty and ghost-like, you learn to live with it. It becomes part of the landscape. I thought it got sold a few years back, and so I assumed it was gonna be fixed up and another Black & White Coffee put in there (what’s with that BTW? When did Black & White become the Starbucks of Chch?).
It’s no great loss. It was ugly as fuck. Not in a cool brutalist way. Just in an ugly way.
It had no significant or sentimental meaning to me other than back in the day it had a pharmacy on the ground floor. I used to work in hospitality, up the road, when I was a teenager, so that was where I’d always crawl to at 10am on a Sunday morning, on my way from the Bus Exchange to buy painkillers for my hangover.
Upstairs was the Pagoda Court restaurant. But I never went there. Like I said, an insignificant structure. I think the guy who owned the restaurant got done for trading in the seafood black market. Cracked City has always been seedy.
However on Friday it was startling and jarring to suddenly be thrown back into that world of demolition & wreckage. You don’t realise how far we’ve come until you are confronted with that very distinctive, very violent, reminder of how life used to be. How the disturbing and decaying just became ‘meh’.
How fucked up is it that that horrible sound and sight used to be our NORMAL. Every block of town was under demolition, constantly. You stopped noticing, or talking about it, except for a cursory ‘oh did you see ‘x’ is gone’.
But do you what’s even more fucked up?
When I stumbled across that demolition on Friday, I found it familiar, and almost, dare I say, comforting?
Like coming home to a favourite cardigan or arm chair. It was like ‘oh hi, nice to see you again, weird, unpredictable, dystopian life…it’s been far too quiet and routine around here of late’.
And then I realised – we will never be ‘normal’. Those scars run too deep.
But normal is overrated, anyway.
RIP Pagoda Court.
19yo me will eternally be grateful for the pandaol that saved my Sunday shifts.
(I think this photo was taken around 2003, in the old Excelsior Bar on Manchester St, probably right before going to a gig at Jetset).
– Bonjela x
PAGODA COURT BUILDING
CNR. COLOMBO ST & CASHEL MALL
DEMOLISHED NOV 2018