West Lecture (1917)

The restoration of the West Lecture buildings will effectively place a brand new building within the historic stone fabric.

Due for completion in 2018, the ground floor of West Lecture will welcome the return of boutique cinema to the Arts Centre, while upstairs there will be four apartments for artists-, scientists- and writers-in-residence.

Steel beams held in place with giant concrete blocks are bracing the historic stone walls while the interior of the building is stripped, then reconstructed. When finished, everything within the walls will be new, apart from heritage-protected features such as the main stairwell, windows and stonework.

A giant tower crane is being used to remove or bring new material into the building, with everything being lifted out through a temporary hole in the roof.

Restoration images

Key features of the restoration include:

  • Strengthening techniques including:
    • plywood diaphragms
    • reinforced concrete skin walls on the inside of the historic facade
    • steel integrated into the structure
    • a seismic gap between West Lecture and its neighbour – Classics – to protect both buildings from damage in the case of future earthquakes
    • a new concrete floor slab that provides horizontal bracing
  • new roof and rafters
  • modern services including a lift, central heating, high-speed internet and a security system

The design of the cinemas will allow them to be easily repurposed for speaking events such as seminars, conferences and community events.

The role of the Arts Centre is to foster and promote arts, culture, education and creativity and the residency programme is one way it will achieve this goal. The intention is to work in partnership with funders to deliver the programme, while commercially leasing other spaces on the site will also help to make it financially viable.

Heritage and History

Completed in 1917, this building housed Canterbury College’s largest lecture theatre and was originally used mainly by the history department and for public lectures.

Later, the women’s Common Room was located here and, when dormer windows were added to the attic in the 1940s, offices. More recently, Free Theatre used the ground floor lecture theatre immediately before the earthquakes.

If you look at the building from the Botanic Gardens, you can see how the right hand bay of windows steps up – indicating the location of the lecture theatre.

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