Quake-shattered tiles replicated

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013
Daniel Tobin

Christchurch company Ambience Tiling has almost finished replacing the damaged tiles on New Regent Street

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New Regent St's characteristic tile work has been almost fully restored after almost two months' work by a Christchurch firm.

Ambience Tiling co-owner John Turner said the company worked with Auckland-based tile supplier SCE Stone & Design which managed to find a Chinese manufacturer to machine replicate the tiles.

The original tiles were handpainted by English ceramics company Mintons.

Four pallets of replacement tiles were ordered from China for those broken or damaged originals.

About 10,500 tiles were produced and they were good copies of the originals, Turner said.

There were differences, but it was difficult to perfectly recreate the colour and shape of handmade tiles which had weathered over decades, he said.

"It's a nice job to be involved in . . . and to be involved in putting something back into Christchurch that's part of the heritage of the city is really quite good."

The job should be finished this week, he said.

But there are five shops which have not been restored under a unified street restoration project run by contractor Naylor Love. Another two independently restored units have already been completed including tile work.

SCE Stone & Design South Island director Johnny Harrison said the main tiles had been machine-painted, but the smaller pieces had been handpainted.

"It was quite a large and unique order."

Christchurch City Council heritage team leader Philip Barrett's unit was tasked with making sure the street's restoration kept the original's spirit and the tiles were a significant part of that, he said.

"The process is more mechanised than opposed to the artist mixing the colours themselves, it was always going to be impossible [to make them identical]."

Dave Margetts, of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, said the trust had put $108,000 towards the restoration and strengthening project, spread equally among the unit owners under the Naylor Love scheme.

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- The Press

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