Whole House Reuse: Deconstruction book launch

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Last year I wrote an article about meeting Juliet from Christchurch based-furniture company Rekindle. I had the chance to meet with her again, this time in Auckland. She was here to launch “Whole House Reuse: Deconstruction” – a book which documents a project which the Rekindle organisation started last year. The launch was held in the George Fraser gallery; an art space run by Elam. The white walls and emptiness of the gallery made a bittersweet but appropriate setting for the beautifully crafted pieces of furniture and photographs of materials pulled from condemned houses in Christchurch. Click on any of the photos to see more.

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Many houses were deemed unsafe and condemned to be demolished after the series of devastating earthquakes in Christchurch. The immense task of demolishing such a large number of buildings was not just difficult for the city’s already damaged infrastructure but also for the people whose shelters, memories, homes were suddenly gone from their lives. For a house to be demolished, shattered and trucked off to a landfill signifies an ending of something which was once full of life.

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The “Whole House Reuse” project, which Juliet conceived some years ago is a way for these houses, and their embedded memories, to have a second life. It is not only the materials these houses can yield, it is also the sentiments and patina the materials carry from their original purpose. The old houses of Christchurch tell the history of a different era, and the materials themselves have value: many of the old weatherboard houses were built from native timber.

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The materials from the house at 19 Admirals Way were salvaged, documented and stored; filling six garages. In the book, the photographed materials pulled from the house are ordered for re-use. Contributors to the project are invited to propose designs using these reclaimed materials and, should their designs be accepted, they will be sent the materials. The final products will be auctioned off at the end of the project.

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Waste is not easy to define. If a demolished house is seen as waste, it will lie shattered in a landfill until it decays. However, if it is not seen as waste, it can continue to tell stories and create memories. It is an admirable project, and an interesting reflection on how we view resources: where they come from and where they go after we are through with them. We are reminded that resources are not infinite, and the constant desire for the new is challenged.

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The book can be purchased on the rekindle online store for a really reasonable $40, and you can find out more about the Whole House Reuse project on a dedicated website. The first round of submissions is due in April 2014, so you can submit your proposed design through the website.

– Steven.

Author: Steven Park

I live in Auckland and am currently doing my Honours in Fine Arts at Elam. I run a design label called "6x4", where I make clothing, furniture, home-ware and other exciting things. Say hello if you see me walking around! Read More

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