Etched in Memory

Etched in Memory

The rich traditions of carving are being explored in the context of a new landscape forming a memorial for the Canterbury Earthquakes. As an art form and an essential sacred form of cultural expression, this carved landscape will evolve as part of a living culture reflecting the stories of individuals, the people of Christchurch and the culture of the city. An elevated circular gathering space forms the heart of the site (The ‘Memorial Island’). The circular gathering space is an abstraction of the sun but also the moon. The surface of the gathering space is charcoal black and punctured only by the 185 small lights that mark the columns below and 4,199 perforations for water to pass through. At the same time each day (12.51pm) a wall of water connects the raised gathering space with the river.

Beyond the water lies a forest of 185, blackened trees, which support the gathering space above. These trees represent 185 people who lost their lives but they are not static memorial objects, instead they are active performative pieces supporting the structure and the people above. These trees are carved with messages, motifs and names acting as records of a previous life and telling the story of an individual’s life. Just as traditional Maori Carving was used to record the ancestors, this forest of carved trees reflects a specific history and culture unique to New Zealand. The black ‘forest’ also provides private space within the site. Just like wondering into the quiet of a dense forest this space is peaceful, private and more suited to individual contemplation and quiet reflection.


Prof Alan Pert, James Selleck, Caroline Chong




Christchurch, New Zealand