I went to the Exchange on a city Orbus Bus that sped it’s way along the busy one-way system and clattered through orange traffic lights with growing momentum. It was very thrilling. I like the Exchange very much. It’s got everything a public space needs to make it an enticing location to connect people to the wider city. There’s bars, restaurants, hotels, a casino, monuments, historic buildings, useful information points, street art, public transport and even a busker or two if you’re lucky.
I made my way along semi deserted streets surrounded by buildings constructed in the early 20th century to the open plaza and tried to imagine what used to be. On the corner of the plaza now stands John Wickcliffe House, on the exact location of what was once the crown jewel of buildings in this part of the city, The former Stock Exchange Building. Completed in the 1860’s and constructed from Oamaru stone with a European palladian structure, with grecian columns, moulded arches and a clocktower, the building stood until it was pulled down in 1969.
Now, half a century later I stood before where it used to stand and tried to imagine what combination of inspectors, councilors and town planners could have allowed this to happen. And the thing that stuck me was the building they replaced it with (John Wickliffe House) is one of the ugliest in the city.