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Built to last – Christchurch's incredible new city

11 September 2017

Fans of modern architecture will find plenty to see and photograph in Christchurch.​ Bold new structures are emerging amid treasured historic buildings following the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Glass, concrete, cardboard, timber, adventurous angles and cutting-edge technology – you’ll find it all in the South Island’s largest city.

The Christchurch Art Gallery

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu houses several exhibition areas and fabulous photo opportunities, including the bull on the piano in front of the gallery and the striking wavy glass façade depicting the koru and Avon River/Ōtākaro. The building was seismically strengthened after the quakes, which was no easy feat. Engineers had to cut off all the columns in the basement (as well as stairwells and lift shafts) to install base isolators – and suspend them from the floor above while the work was going on.

The Arts Centre

Home to one of the most significant collections of heritage buildings in New Zealand, The Arts Centre is a must visit for fans of beautiful architecture – particularly those with an interest in the distinctive Gothic Revival style. The Arts Centre suffered extensive damage in the Canterbury earthquakes and is the subject of a huge restoration effort. The Great Hall and Clock Tower, built in 1882 and 1877, were the first buildings to re-open and have both received awards for innovative engineering.

Cathedral Grammar Junior School


An Auckland-based designer and professor joined forces with a Japanese husband-and-wife architect team to design the innovative Cathedral Grammar Junior School building. The entire school was cut to finished shape in a factory off site before being assembled opposite Hagley Park on the corner of Hagley Ave and Kilmore St. The stunning timber structure features a rooftop playground with a Southern Alps-inspired frame to climb on and a slide down to a grassy courtyard below.


Isaac Theatre Royal

Standing outside the grand Isaac Theatre Royal, it is hard to believe it hasn’t looked that way for the past 100 years. The theatre was fully restored after the quakes, including its amazing façade and dome, with heritage features retained or replaced when necessary. The rebuild also provided an opportunity to intertwine enhancements to the foyer space and technical operations.

Christchurch Bus Interchange 


The Christchurch Bus Interchange features a dramatic canopy-like, folding roof and attention-grabbing angles. Designed by Architectus, a New Zealand firm that has worked on many civic, community, educational and transport-oriented projects, it features natural ventilation and underfloor heating to keep commuters comfortable, as well as lockers, secure bike parks, retail areas and cafés.


The Cardboard Cathedral

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who won the 2014 Pritzker Prize for his work pioneering the use of cardboard as a structural material, designed Christchurch’s Transitional Cathedral in the wake of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. The building incorporates cardboard tubes with timber, steel and concrete and has a steeply-pitched asymmetrical roof. Its striking triangular window includes designs from the original cathedral.

Stranges and Glendenning Hill Building


The Stranges and Glendenning Hill Building stands proud on a corner in the central city, with vertical green and red glass panes. It houses an array of cafes, bars and offices, as well as Leighs Construction – a contractor on the building that liked it so much it decided to move in. Before the quakes, the triangular site the building is on was home to the Stranges Building – an iconic 1900s structure. Its replacement incorporates rustic timber, concrete textures and a low profile to pay homage to nearby Victorian buildings.


Deloitte’s office

Deloitte’s office is found on Cambridge Terrace, near the Avon River/Ōtākaro. The river strongly influenced the building's architectural design, which is evident in the rippling façade flowing along the northern and eastern elevations. Glazed sunshades even form ‘eddies’ across the surface of the building. Floor-to-ceiling glazing provides occupants with unrestricted views out to the river and its embankments.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens is home to the gardens' striking visitor centre and ilex Café. Designed by architects Patterson Associates, the light-soaked, contemporary building was influenced by the glass and white steel structures within Kew Gardens in London. The building is home to a working nursery, which you can see while you’re sipping your latte.

The Tannery

The Tannery is a boutique shopping emporium on the banks of the Heathcote River in Woolston. The beautifully-restored former industrial buildings were once home to Woolston Tanneries and now house 50 boutique shops specialising in clothing, art and designer homewares, we well as restaurants, bars and a deluxe cinema. Most of the buildings are constructed of brick, complemented by timber door and window frames.

New Regent Street

New Regent Street boasts distinctive pastel colours and beautiful Spanish Mission architecture dating back to 1932. Designed by Francis Willis, the 40 buildings on the street were one of the few large-scale building projects undertaken in the South Island during the Depression. New Regent Street is home to bars and eateries and is just around the corner from the amazing Isaac Theatre Royal.

Justice Precinct


The Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct houses all the justice sector agencies and the city’s civil defence and emergency management in one central location. It features a 36-metre long aluminium kākahu – or traditional Maori feather cloak – façade by contemporary artist Lonnie Hutchinson (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Hāmoa). The amazing kākahu design is inspired by the endangered Kākapo parrot.


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