In February, Te Papa opened a commemorative display, Remember: the Canterbury Earthquakes, to mark the fourth anniversary of the devastating 2011 quakes. The display features two pieces of furniture by Rekindle, a social enterprise committed to unlocking the qualities of undervalued materials, and in particular Christchurch’s demolition ‘waste’.
The Whole House Reuse Project: creating good work from waste
In June I caught up with Juliet Arnott, Rekindle’s founder, to view the results of their latest project – the recycling of an entire Christchurch house. With the former owners’ blessing, the Rekindle team deconstructed a typical 1920s weatherboard family home, 19 Admirals Way, by hand. A catalogue of materials from the red-zoned house was then distributed to artists, crafts people and designers, with the invitation to transform them ‘into purposeful, beautiful works’. Rekindle conceived the highly ambitious project as ‘a mark of respect for countless homes lost through demolition, and as an avenue to create use and demand for resources that currently end up in landfill.’
Although Rekindle acknowledged that the reuse of materials is not always easy – ‘they are not predictable like the fresh, straight, un-punctured timber at the hardware store’ -, over 250 makers, from professionals to retired experts, family groups and school children, took up Rekindle’s challenge.
The inventive results of the Whole House Reuse Project are currently on display at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch. Over the last year, 19 Admirals Way has been transformed into jewellery, toys, tableware, furniture, a backyard studio and even a range of musical instruments, including a delicately carved taonga puoro (flute) by master carver Brian Flintoff and a special brand of ‘House Music’.
Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, the Buxton family, who had lived at 19 Admirals Way for six years, were clearly moved by the project.
‘I think we felt blessed throughout this whole thing that it was something we could be part of. There are so many devastated Cantabrians who had to say goodbye to treasured memories. This has been a way of realising that in the midst of destruction there is hope and new life. That is pretty cool.’ Luke Buxton
On the evening of 24 August, many of the items from the project will be auctioned at a fundraising event at the magnificently restored Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch. Anyone is welcome to bid on a one or more of the amazing objects crafted from 19 Admirals Way. The items will be on display at the Canterbury Museum until 23 August, and can also be viewed online at Whole House Reuse. Tickets for the auction can be purchased from Ticketek.
Proceeds from the evening will go towards Rekindle’s next project – a partnership with Kilmarnock Enterprises, an organisation committed to employing individuals with intellectual disabilities. Working with designers interested addressing waste streams, the project will aim to produce sale-able products that take into consideration the social and technical strengths of the Kilmarnock Enterprises.