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Heritage buildings' restoration wins innovation award

25 August 2017

The sensitive treatment of heritage features during The Arts Centre’s ongoing restoration has resulted in a national engineering award.

The Great Hall and Clock Tower, built in 1882 and 1877, were the first buildings to re-open after the centre suffered extensive damage in the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

Holmes Consulting, the structural engineering company behind the buildings’ restoration, was awarded a Gold Award of Excellence at the 2017 Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand INNOVATE Awards. 

The awards showcase and celebrate outstanding engineering projects from around New Zealand, with judges looking for technology, innovation and service that go beyond what is considered standard for the industry.

The Arts Centre is a must visit for fans of beautiful architecture – particularly those with an interest in the distinctive Gothic Revival style.

Its restoration is one of the largest heritage projects of its kind being undertaken in the world and more than half the site has now reopened to the public.

Originally the University of Canterbury’s town site (founded in 1873), where Sir Ernest Rutherford was based and Dame Ngaio Marsh studied, it is now a venue for concerts, a relaxed hang out and a great place to shop.

Holmes Consulting project director John Trowsdale says restoring the treasured Great Hall and Clock Tower buildings was an enormous challenge.

“The key was to preserve and protect the stunning heritage features so The Arts Centre maintained its heritage and authenticity, while also underpinning the structure with modern—and hidden—structural features to safeguard its future and ensure the safety of those who use it.”

The Arts Centre chief executive André Lovatt says the Great Hall and Clock Tower, which contain Rutherford’s Den and Bunsen café, were the first buildings to be restored because they were the most historically significant.

“Tens of thousands have flocked to them since they re-opened, reflecting the special and powerful memories they hold for so many in our community.”