Sheds rescued for art project

LOOK CLOSELY: Billy Wilson directs volunteers inside the shed as they lift it onto the trailer. Wilson is recycling the ...
Stacy Squires

LOOK CLOSELY: Billy Wilson directs volunteers inside the shed as they lift it onto the trailer. Wilson is recycling the residential red-zone sheds for use elsewhere.

It is a race against time as Billy Wilson tries to save tool and garden sheds in the residential red zone from demolition.

On Friday, more than a dozen volunteers lifted a 4.2 x 2.1 metre shed in Avonside off its foundation and onto a trailer and spirited it away. The demolition company intended to wreck it on Saturday morning.

Wilson has authority from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority to grab the sheds and more than $12,000 from Christchurch City Council's Transitional City Projects Fund for the project.

Wilson intends to recycle six sheds. Some may go to community gardens, including one on Packe St, and one has been claimed by the Student Volunteer Army. Associate professor Billy O'Steen, who is heading the University of Canterbury's new Community Engagement Hub, said it planned to make it a portable headquarters and meeting space.

Wilson will renovate the other sheds, replacing rotting and borer wood, with salvaged timber. Then he will paint them.

He is a trade painter and an artistic painter. His father was a trade painter and he picked up the trade as a teenager. "It's my bread and butter."

His art to date had typically been two-dimensional paintings and painting the sheds would be his first 3D project, he said.

The sheds were built for state houses in the 1930s and 40s and were standard issue, Wilson said. They had nearly identical dimensions and design: 2.4m x 2m, rimu timber and weatherboards, a sloping roof and no overhang.

Some are doubles and sat on a property boundary, one tenant accessing the shed from one end and another tenant from the other. A wall divided the space. The shed rescued on Friday was a double.

Wilson was not sure where the remaining sheds might go. Community gardens were keen, but he whimsically suggested mounting one on a plinth in the city. "I'm sure people will come forward with ideas," he said.

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Friday's volunteers were rebuild workers who lived in worker accommodation. Some had spent the day carrying heavy doors up many stairs. They lifted the shed using crossbeams installed inside. It was heavy work and Wilson paid them with beer.

O'Steen said the university's hub was a meeting point between organisations and individuals who wanted to get things done and 15,000 university staff and students who could assist.

* Open Source is a weekly series featuring innovative, interesting ideas emerging within the city and region. If you want to share an idea, email

 - The Press


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