A City

Michael Spooner,  ‘A City,’ Architecture New Zealand, no. 2, March/April, 2011:15

An invitation to reflect on the city of Christchurch in the South Island of  New Zealand, following the 2011 earthquake. Born in Christchurch, I spent the next 20 years in the city before relocating to Melbourne in 2004.

For Joseph Conrad every clearing determined where a city would be built, no questions asked. Thus, could a city that has been marred by a deceitful turn claim each of its own clearings with the same affirmation?  To proceed in this way is not a means of stopping the violence, fleeing some incomprehensible danger or for that matter starting again, taking leave of what has already been assured by the very suggestion of a city. A city must yield, again, to what is promised by any such undertaking, by the realisastion that it is the still quiet in the offing that permits a city to be heard. Conrad knew this.

It must be remembered that a city is what distinguishes itself in the turning of the spool. It is a thread that touches the eternal flame in passing, Prometheus glaring from its shadow, to cast a blind hope or to launch a gilded ship, only to throw-off the trappings of its ocean home; to turn out, to be rid off and to expose. A city is what offers all a passage in a ritornello that proceeds from the middle out; a wake that accompanies the virtual passage of death; that concedes a wake behind in the reticulated water of an approach; and realises a wake that casts the threads of good fortune before taking leave. It is a collective enunciation, a wake that keeps watch by turns, by turning its attention to all. It is a voice raised to the cacophony of the sea, to realise other voyagers, adrift on parched waves, those who share a vocation…. companions in distress or giddy conspirators. Admittingly, there has been a contract that has long established every architect as a stranger to this city. Nevertheless, it is enough that we have all leant over one side of the boat and sworn a ballad softly to the sea. Such is its melody,  a single breath which tells of a first meeting…near my lips, on my lips, turning on my lips… sound edging forward, to pick us up and to send us all spinning.

Brother Masseo went on turning faster and faster in the hope of choosing a city. But could our indecision, punctuated by the infinite of Molly Bloom,  mark every conversation hence? The divine language of yes thrown into a dithyrambic passage…Yes I said yes I will Yes.  It is the duration of these sentiments which advance that city, and obligates all those whose sentiments are yet to come.

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