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Restoring Christchurch's iconic Arts Centre

12 November 2018

A major milestone on the restoration of Christchurch’s iconic Arts Centre, Te Matatiki Toi Ora, will be reached this Christmas when stage one of the work is complete.

The city landmark, which is a centre for arts, culture and education, was extensively damaged in the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. The 23 stunning Gothic Revival buildings, which are the largest group of Historic Place Category 1 buildings in New Zealand, are being brought back to life through a huge and meticulous restoration project using traditional materials and innovative strengthening techniques and incorporating modern functions.

Stage one of the restoration work will be completed by the end of the year, with 50 percent of floor space having been strengthened, restored and reopened to the public – including iconic buildings such as the UNESCO award winning Great Hall and the Clocktower. Early in 2019 two boutique cinemas, artist residences, an art workshop, office spaces and great venues will also be opening.

The Arts Centre is hugely popular, with 650,000 people visiting it for the year, as of November 2018. Those exploring discover the more than 25 entities that call it home, including arts organisations, museums, performance companies, galleries, independent retailers, artisans, award winning hospitality establishments and much more.

A thriving events programme runs at the centre and includes the recently returned famous Arts Centre Mākete (market), every Sunday from 10am-4pm, outdoor summer exhibition of 51 Christchurch Artists ‘To Ōtautahi With Love’, Leighs Construction Outdoor Cinema, every month through summer, Bread and Circus World Buskers Festival 10 January – 3 February, the very popular Great Hall Lunchtime Concerts, workshops, talks and concerts.

The next stage of restoration of the independent charitable trust’s severely earthquake-damaged buildings is the Observatory Tower, Biological Laboratory and a huge block, currently behind chain-link fences, visible from Worcester Boulevard, the Engineering buildings.

The Arts Centre Chief Executive Philip Aldridge says once restored, the Observatory Tower will be returned to its rightful position as a powerful education tool and magnificent place of discovery and wonder for Cantabrians in the heart of Christchurch.

“It will be complete with the 154-year-old, meticulously restored, Townsend Teece Telescope enabling new generations of people to unearth secrets of the cosmos from the heart of the city.”

Fundraising is underway to raise $10 million for the Observatory Tower through the Arts Centre’s “Be a star” campaign. The plan is to rebuild the Observatory Tower on the original site, to the original external plan and, where possible, using original materials with hidden seismic strengthening and modern amenities. 

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