Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

How to reuse a House


Documentation of the total salvage of one Red Zone home in Christchurch.

The unique challenge of reusing an entire house to save it from waste has formed the basis for a new and inspiring exhibition called Whole House Reuse to open at Canterbury Museum on 5 June 2015.

The project involved reusing every single piece of 19 Admirals Way – a 1920’s weatherboard home in New Brighton, Christchurch – which was scheduled for demolition in 2013.

The house was deconstructed by hand over 9 days and every piece, down to the last splinter, was saved. Since then, over 250 people from around New Zealand and the world have invented ways of reusing these resources and the result is a huge collection of objects from a delicately carved taonga puoro (flute) by master carver Brian Flintoff, to a finely crafted backyard studio by artist Nic Moon and architectural designer Lyn Russell.

This exhibition showcases original works by some of the country’s finest designers and craftspeople and it also includes works by school children, retired experts, community organisations like Kilmarnock Enterprises, and students of various arts and crafts. Participants have created works all over New Zealand and as far away as Illinois and Ohio in the USA, London and the Isle of Tiree in the UK.

Objects include chairs made of lath wood, delicate bowls made from window glass, precious musical instruments carved from framing timber and games made from plastic piping. From fine jewellery and cutlery to furniture and toys, the reused materials have taken on a new life in the form of nearly 400 objects.

‘This was a massive undertaking by any consideration,’ says Museum Director Anthony Wright.  ‘And scale is an ongoing theme throughout: the sheer volume of materials, the number of artisans, the length of time, and the number of final objects.  Transformation is another equally important theme and a purpose of the exhibition is to encourage us to consider the value in objects that are usually thrown away.  The exhibition itself is an example of how Cantabrians turn disaster into innovation and opportunity.’

The project was the brainchild of Rekindle – a social enterprise that seeks to bring about creativity and positive change in the way resources are valued. They aim to change the way waste is viewed and managed and they believe that transformation of wasted resources is basic resource efficiency, especially when the creativity and social impact of this process is valued.

“It is powerful and inspiring to see the degree of care that so many people have put into making beautiful work from this house. It’s such a striking contrast to what would have happened if the demolition had gone ahead as scheduled” says Kate McIntyre, Project Co-Director.  ‘This project honours the previous life and material of one typical home, by creating a legacy from what would have otherwise been wasted.’

Whole House Reuse is a special one-off project that Rekindle instigated in response to the issue of disposal of reusable materials within demolition, in Christchurch and across New Zealand. This exhibition not only demonstrates the scale of waste occurring and the value of these materials, but also celebrates the power of design and craft as tools to address, and benefit from, wasted resources.

And for Luke and Charlotte Buxton, the last owners of 19 Admirals Way, this has also been a transformational process.

“As a house it was always full of life.  Seeing this chance for a new life for the materials has been amazing.’ says Luke Buxton.  His wife Charlotte agrees.

“It’s a really great experience to revisit your house and actually have a way of saying goodbye”

Whole House Reuse opens on Friday 5 June 2015 in the Special Exhibition Gallery of Canterbury Museum and runs to 23 August 2015.  More information at www.canterburymuseum.com.  This exhibition is presented in association with Rekindle, who gratefully acknowledge funding assistance from Creative New Zealand.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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