Christ Church Cathedral, New Zealand
The Magnitude 6.3 tremblor that rocked the New Zealand city of Christchurch was the worst the country had seen in almost a century.
Aside from the death toll of 185 people, the catastrophic damage wreaked on the region included the historic Christ Church Cathedral, whose bell tower toppled while the rest of the structure suffered major damage.
The shaking has long-since subsided, but the fate of the structure has raised up a massive dispute in the city between the local Anglican diocese, which wants to demolish and rebuild, and another group that wants the structure repaired.
The cathedral was such a symbol of the city that the fight over its fate has ranged all the way to the New Zealand Supreme Court, after lower court rulings halted the demolition.
Last we heard, the two sides were still trying to find a solution.
In the meantime, services have continued in a temporary cathedral nearby – Built, amazingly, using 98 giant cardboard tubes, among other materials.
Apparently, it was built to last more than 10 years. Given the protracted fight over the congregation’s final home, they might need an extension.
Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.
The eastern U.S. isn’t really known for being a massive hotspot for seismic activity, but when the plates do shift, and the tremors make it to that part of North America, people tend to remember.
The Magnitude 5.8 quake that rattled Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland in August 2011 even left the U.S. capital district something to remember it by: Cracks and other structural damages in the Washington Monument.
It’s not exactly easy to miss. At around 170 m in height, it’s the tallest free-standing stone structure in the world, and as sturdy as it is, the damage, mostly concentrated near the peak, was substantial.
Pieces of it broke off and fell, at least one stone shifted out almost an inch from the stone below it, and cracks in the façade were wide enough to allow sunlight to stream in to the hollow interior.
It’s safe to say the giant obelisk is unlike any other building in Washington – the scaffolding alone that would be required to support the $15-million repairs took 20 months to design and build.
It is, of course, closed to the public until around 2014, so the only people who will have any fun at the site will be the engineers and surveyors who checked the damage by rappelling down from the top.
Canada's Vimy Memorial, France
For Canada’s entry on this list, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France, the enemy has been not a sudden shock like an earthquake or hurricane, but the slow, day-to-day ravages of weather and climate.
Unveiled in 1936, the enormous monument to more than 11,000 Canadian soldiers whose final resting places were then unknown, it was meant to last centuries, an enduring commemoration of Canada’s sacrifice in the First World War.
Unfortunately, a design flaw meant cracks had appeared in the façade, and water had begun to seep in, hastening erosion.
As well, many of the names on the memorial had faded due to weathering from the wind and rain.
In 2001, a massive restoration program began, lasting until 2007, when the monument was rededicated by Queen Elizabeth on the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Even almost a century after the battle that was a crucial step in forging Canada’s national identity, the workmen engaged in the restoration could not escape the towering history of the memorial – in 2005, the remains of two German soldiers were unearthed.
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