Rethinking the demolition of a house

WHOLE HOUSE RE-USE: Project director Kate McIntyre at 19 Admirals Way, New Brighton, in August.
WHOLE HOUSE RE-USE: Project director Kate McIntyre at 19 Admirals Way, New Brighton, in August.

Creatives were summoned last week to transform all of the materials from a demolished red-zoned house in Christchurch into ''beautiful objects of use''.

The entire house, everything - more than 1000 red bricks, slabs of roofing iron, dozens of metres of painted rimu weatherboard and, yes, even the kitchen sink - were salvaged from a New Brighton bungalow and will be transformed into whatever artists and craftsmen, amateurs and old pros, can imagine.

Organisers expect about 175 items as diverse as jewellery, sculpture, furniture and perhaps a shed, and also expect to be surprised. All of the finished objects will be exhibited in a show planned for about October, ''to show what a whole house looks like when it's entirely reused'', Whole House founder and director Juliet Arnott said.

One point is making beautiful objects. Another is simply finding out if transforming an entire house is possible, project manager Kate McIntyre said. It's never been done before as far as anyone knows.

Another point is ''rethinking what waste is'', said Darren Patterson, chair of Sustainable Initiative Fund Trust, which backs innovative waste minimisation projects. It's a co-sponsor along with Rekindle, the social enterprise that fashions furniture and art with timber from demolished Canterbury buildings.

Whole House Reuse (WHR) was an ''amazing and...outrageous thing to do'', architectural historian Jessica Halliday said. ''Our culture is to demolish and send it to the tip.''

Arnott hoped councils and other officials would note how much salvage was possible and start thinking harder about landfills.

This was a surreal experience, said Luke Buxton, who along with his wife Charlotte and their two children, owned the three-bedroom house at 19 Admirals Way when the quakes struck. He jokingly apologised to the artists who have to make something of a gauze bandage (''off-white'') recovered from the address and included in the materials catalogue. ''I hope your hearts are in it as much as ours were,'' he said.

Landscape architect Nik Kneale and jeweller Jeremy Leeming planned to collaborate on a WHR project but were still mulling ideas. ''I see this as an opportunity to do something other than landscape architecture,'' Kneale said of WHR.

Artist and Gap Filler co-founder Trent Hiles said he was intrigued by the street name, Admirals Way, and might explore it with house materials.

Timber infected with borer was sent to the Agropolis urban farm at Tuam and High streets to keep it away from clean timber. Planter boxes have already been constructed, with more to come.

The catalogue of materials - 65 pages long - was unveiled on Thursday and the first round of applications close April 4. A second round closes May 28. A jury will determine what applicants get what materials. Workshops are planned for unclaimed materials and offcuts.

The Press