185 Chairs – Christchurch, New Zealand - Atlas Obscura
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Christchurch, New Zealand

185 Chairs

An unusual and powerful memorial in which earthquake victims are remembered by empty white chairs. 

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.”