On February 22, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit near Christchurch, New Zealand, devastating the city´s infrastructure and killing 185 people. To memorialize the victims, 185 empty white chairs were placed in an open field near the center of Christchurch, one chair for each life lost.
While most memorials feature crosses, gravestones, or a list of names, Christchurch’s 185 Chairs installation remembers the earthquake’s victims with an empty white chair for each, designed to fit each victim’s personality. The display is made up of armchairs, dining room chairs, beanbags, wheelchairs, baby capsules, or whatever seat the person would have sat on.
The current site of 185 Chairs was once a vacant lot, ironically made up of about 185 square meters of grass. But local artist Peter Majendie transformed it into the unique and powerful installation it is today. Says Majendie, “the installation is temporary—as is life.”
Update as of February 2023: Unfortunately, the current site is due to be sold for residential purposes.
Know Before You Go
The memorial has been moved to the former St Luke's Church site on the corner of Manchester and Kilmor Streets.
The church was damaged in the quakes and later demolished.