Great Hall welcomes visitors for first time since earthquakes

18 December 2015

For the first time since the September 2010 earthquake, visitors were today welcomed back to the Arts Centre’s Great Hall for a private rededication ceremony.

The Great Hall’s Memorial Window was rededicated to the memory of all staff and students who served in World War One and who previously attended an institution once based on the site now known as the Arts Centre: Canterbury College, the School of Engineering, the School of Art, Christchurch Boys’ High School and Christchurch Girls’ High School.

The 235 who perished are now honoured with dedication plaques that sit beneath the window.

About 150 people were invited to the ceremony that included an official unveiling of the Memorial Window by Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating, MNZM. Those invited included relatives of the 235 whose names are on the plaques and representatives of the institutions that used to reside at the Arts Centre.

Thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars have gone into the Great Hall’s restoration, with it expected to open to the public by autumn 2016.  All the original heritage features of the grand space have been carefully restored and retrofitted with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, plus underfloor heating that uses water drawn from on-site aquifers.

In her speech at the service, Arts Centre Trust Board chair Jen Crawford said the Great Hall’s structural safety and restoration had been a priority for the Board since the September 2010 earthquake. She hoped the plaques would act as a reference point for the families of those commemorated

“We regard the Great Hall as one of Christchurch’s most special civic spaces".

Arts Centre Trust Board chair Jen Crawford

“To our workers, I just want to say that your work is helping to heal the cultural heart of our city and, for that, we thank you.”

It took about one year for the Memorial Window to be painstakingly repaired and cleaned before being reinstalled in pride of place over-looking Worcester Boulevard.

Comprised of about 4,000 individual pieces of glass, the window was removed following the September 2010 earthquake to ensure its safety while major earthquake repair work was carried out on the Great Hall. The window suffered minimal earthquake damage thanks to earlier strengthening work.

Two people worked on the window continuously for one year before it was reinstalled in November 2015. A new isothermal system has been installed to protect the window from exterior elements and to aid soundproofing. The total estimated cost of the window restoration is $130,000.

The Memorial Window was originally installed in 1938, 20 years after its design was completed by Martin Travers – a teacher at the royal College of Art in London. It depicts the service of humanity by action and thought and includes possibly the most portraits found in any 20th century English stained glass window.