If you liked this article share it with your friends. They will thank you later.

Leave No Trace – Ghostcat

Architecture, Visual Arts
image Image: Ghostcat

The Volcano Café – formerly 42 London Street, Lyttelton

Part of the city-wide project Leave No Trace by Mike Beer AKA Ghostcat

Leave No Trace is part of the Christchurch City Council’s Year of the Arts. The trail of miniature architectural facades by scratch-build artist Mike Beer AKA Ghostcat is an ode to Ōtautahi buildings loved and lost…

The Volcano Café, formerly situated at 42 London Street was an icon of hospitality, locally, nationally, and internationally. The art deco building, painted in vibrant red and yellow, was as vivacious inside as out. For over 20 years the café was a lively hub, with a bustling kitchen, avant-garde art on the walls, and parties ringing into the night. For 23 years the Volcano Café (and the adjoining and inseparable Lava Bar, itself painted in striking blue) served as a Lyttelton institution, a festive meeting place for locals and visitors from all walks of life and corners of the globe. Damaged beyond repair in the February 22, 2011 earthquake, the building, along with the Lava Bar, was demolished just months later. However, the Volcano Café remains a beloved legend of London Street.   


Atami Bath House – formerly 217 Tuam Street, Central Christchurch

Stories abound about nights at Atami Bath House, although often they are preceded by the disclaimer, “someone once told me…”. ‘The Atami’ was a controversial establishment, certainly not a place many would freely admit to frequenting, but with its garish pink exterior and Japonisme, it was well-known even by those who stayed away from the activities inside. The building’s eye-catching facade was suggestive of the salacious performances inside, which were never explicitly advertised but implied through innuendo on a variety of plain text signs in the window – ‘Luv Tub’, ‘Private Suites’, and ‘Discreet Escorts’. While the exact goings-on of Atami Bath House have become obscured and tangled by the processes of urban myth-making, its architecturally incongruent place in the history of Ōtautahi’s pre-quake city centre is undeniable.

The Hack Circle – formerly Cashel Street, Central Christchurch

Part of the city-wide project Leave No Trace by Mike Beer AKA Ghostcat

Nestled in the High Street Triangle in City Mall, the ‘Hack Circle’ was an iconic inner-city hang-out spot for Ōtautahi youth. Officially unveiled in 1989, the ‘Hack Circle’ remained in place until 2008. While the name endures today, the pre-quake ‘Hack Circle’ was a specifically defined urban amphitheatre, recessed into the ground, with raised seating around the edges. Named after ‘hacky sack’, which was often played there, the circle was a place to be seen, or to fade into the gathered crowds, whether in baggy jeans or black Gothic attire. When the amphitheatre was earmarked for destruction, young people resisted. Devoid of any commercial purpose, ‘Hack Circle’ represented something different, a site where young people could congregate and simply exist.

New Brighton Mall Bollards – formerly Seaview Road / New Brighton Mall, New Brighton

The change visited upon New Brighton Mall over the last three decades is stark, but it is impossible to forget the memories of Saturdays wandering through the bustling open-air mall – from the famous Noddy Train, which could be glimpsed slowly driving home at the end of the day along Marine Parade – to the collection of iconic independent stores. Yet, nothing summed up the optimism of New Brighton more than the brightly coloured bollards that welcomed people into the mall. Adorned with flourishing type and painted in bold colours, the bollards were inseparable from the mall’s identity. Further along, a greater number of cylinders emerged from the fountain, serving as a splashing water feature. With the salty sea air and hovering seagulls, the mall was a far cry from the shopping centres around today. Sources suggest the tubes are in storage somewhere; surely, a return would be a fitting way to kick-off the village’s long-awaited resurgence.

Artist Bio: Mike Beer AKA Ghostcat is a New Brighton-based artist whose scratch-built works capture a sense of place, whether recreations of beloved buildings or reminders of the playful potential of urban space. Utilising a wide range of materials and techniques in his creations, Ghostcat’s intricately detailed works invite inspection and ultimately elicit wonder. Ghostcat has created a number of notable commissions and exhibited widely across Aotearoa.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Fill in your details below.