The once magnificent Great Hall was the very first building The Arts Centre of Christchurch Trust Board committed to restoring. It has been extensively strengthened, repaired and restored, although most of this work is intentionally hidden beneath its beautiful heritage fabric.
After the first earthquake on 4 September 2010, The Arts Centre removed the turret of the Great Hall. This early work saved the Great Hall from more extensive damage.
The Great Hall exemplifies the process of repair and restoration at the Arts Centre, where a new structure has been built within the existing one. To ensure the Great Hall’s safety and stability, an elaborate system of earthquake strengthening was installed. The building was propped up, and internal timber and brick stripped out to allow for new concrete and steel strengthening. New structures retrofitted into almost the entirety of the existing building are completely hidden from sight. On the western side of the building, bars have been inserted into holes delicately drilled into the Great Hall’s 13-metre stone columns. These bars connect above to steel braces that arch over the roof.
More than 14,000 pieces of timber and decorative features were carefully removed, photographed, numbered and stored in the right atmospheric conditions during the restoration process.
Under-floor heating draws water from on-site aquifers and is controlled by a plant room hidden beneath the Great Hall’s stage.
Perhaps the most visible change is the state-of-the-art lighting that has been fitted within the Great Hall’s ceiling, enhancing the Hall’s architectural features to stunning effect. The new lighting system is complemented with further professional LED lights that illuminate concerts, theatre productions, lectures, exhibitions and other events.
In June 2016, the meticulous care that went into its restoration was recognised in the Canterbury Heritage Awards, with it taking out both the Supreme and Seismic awards. The post-earthquake restoration of the Great Hall and adjacent Clock Tower won a Merit Award in the UNESCO Asia‐Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in late 2017.
A significant portion of funding for the Great Hall and Clock Tower restoration came from the Aotearoa Foundation, Fletcher Building, Mr John Griffin, and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The Great Hall is now available for hire.