Why you should visit Christchurch: the pop-up mall

21 Jan

Christchurch is a great place for tourists or anyone to visit.  One reason is the very cool new pop-up mall.

For those of you who don’t live in New Zealand or who do, but have living under a rock, Christchurch has suffered several massive earthquakes and several thousand aftershocks since the first decent shake on September 2010.  The ongoing earthquakes have hampered efforts to rehabilitate the city and its infrastructure, and have started to really get to people.

Put simply, all the old buildings in what was the main shopping street in Christchurch have fallen down or been pulled down and in their place are a bunch of brightly coloured shipping containers with glass fronts and containing very cool shops.  Not only does this pop-up mall offer better shopping than Chashell Street did before the earthquake, it offers the best shopping in New Zealand.  I know this is a big claim but its not a big country and I do like to shop.

The shops themselves are a perfect blend of Christchurch’s best – from the swanky Ballentynes ‘urban’ store (where my girlfriend bought some Armani gumboots!) to the old Johnson’s the Grocers.  Johnson’s was an iconic grocer in Colombo Street where the shelves groaned under the weight of imported foods from around the world but especially anywhere that smelly cheese proliferates.

The mood of the place is uplifting.  I admit I was there just before Christmas, but the mall seems to represent a positive future for Christchurch – one where losing old buildings doesn’t mean losing the character of the city.

It is interesting because just over the a wire fence (seen everywhere, it seems, in Christchurch) is the sound, only one block away, of the central city being pulled down one building at a time.  This sound is normally an eerie and melancholic one – the slow death of a lost CBD.  But from the pop-up mall the sound can only be heard behind the buzz of commerce, the energetic noise of espresso machines, and buskers’ music.  Then it sounds more like a solemn but steady optimism for the future of Christchurch’s CBD which will be a blank canvas for inspiring and unique places like the pop-up mall to, well…pop-up!

Colourful containers housing shops with people shopping outside

Some of Christchurch's well established shops are housed in the container mall

Shipping container cafe with stone garden in foreground

The pop-up mall has a surreal feeling to it


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