Natural hazards  |  29 Apr 2019

Visitors to Canterbury Museum’s earthquake exhibition Quake City can play with Christchurch’s coolest sand pit to learn about the science behind liquefaction.

The Museum has added a hands-on interactive model to Quake City that demonstrates how the ground liquefied in parts of Canterbury during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, burying streets and sinking buildings.

Mike Jacka tests out the new hands-on exhibit.

Dr Cor Vink, Canterbury Musuem Curator, Natural History, tests out the new hands-on exhibit at Quake City.

Commissioned by the Museum especially for Quake City, from German company Hüttinger Interactive Exhibitions, the model pumps air into a bed of sand, causing it to shift and liquefy much like the ground did during the earthquakes.

Blocks representing buildings sink into the liquefied sand, while lighter plastic balls float to the surface, as happened with some of the city’s buried infrastructure. Visitors can understand the benefits of building on piles by placing the model buildings and balls on metal poles to stop them sinking into the sand.

The liquefaction model is one of a number of interactives at Quake City, which include a bike-powered video and Lego sets where visitors can design earthquake-resistant buildings for the new Christchurch.

Canterbury Museum Director Anthony Wright says the model will make Quake City an even more popular attraction for visitors to Christchurch.

“I’m sure this new exhibit will bring even more people through the door,” Wright says. “It’s a brilliant way for visitors to Christchurch to understand the physical impacts of liquefaction. I hope lots of locals come and try out the exhibit, particularly during our annual free entry weekend in early August.”

The model was funded by Tonkin + Taylor. Mike Jacka, Senior Geotechnical Engineer and key member of Tonkin + Taylor’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery team, hopes the model might teach people how to build a more resilient city.

“I think this is a great investment to inform and educate visitors and locals alike, and raise awareness of how we can better plan and build our homes, towns and cities to be resilient to nature’s challenges,” he says.

Quake City is on the corner of Durham Street North and Armagh Street and is open daily from 10am to 5pm.