02 February 2021

Observatory Tower achieves a significant project milestone

By no means a small feat, the fully restored Observatory Tower spiral staircase was successfully lowered back into place at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora this week.

Built in 1897, the Observatory Tower was badly damaged during the September 2010 earthquake. However, it was the February 2011 earthquake that saw approximately two-thirds of the tower tumble to the ground. Since then, this building has been publicly inaccessible. Deconstruction work began on the tower around August 2019, as part of The Arts Centre’s, stage two, heritage restoration project.

The original staircase was taken out in four sections to be meticulously restored. The first flight and then the spiral section were taken out in three parts. These three parts were put back together and lifted in as one whole piece.

The safe install of the stairs is due to the work of Leighs Construction, including Steve Bell who lovingly worked to repair and restore the native timber stairs before their reinstatement.

Arts Centre Director, Philip Aldridge says “It’s tremendous to see the tower rebuilt and the staircase restored, taking us one step closer to bringing the observatory back to the people of Ōtautahi for tourism and educational purposes.”

The Observatory Tower is on track to open in mid-2022, where it will become the entrance to a boutique central city hotel and once again house the Townsend Teece Telescope. At approximately 14.5 metres tall from the foundation to the top of the corbels, there will be another 4 metres added to the top of the tower when the observatory dome is secured in place.

The Arts Centre operates as a charitable trust and relies on fundraising, grants and donations to help complete the site’s $290 million heritage restoration project. If you wish to show your support and donate to The Arts Centre’s restoration or specifically to this project, please visit artscentre.org.nz/support.