Buildings – History and Restoration

The Arts Centre buildings have a rich history – one that now includes their extensive restoration following the Canterbury earthquakes.

There are a total of 23 separate buildings on site, of which 21 are listed by Heritage New Zealand as Historic Place Category 1. One building – the Student Union – is Historic Place Category 2, while a modern addition to the Registry building is not listed.

This collection of Gothic Revival buildings date from 1877 and were formerly used by Canterbury College (now the University of Canterbury) and two of the city’s secondary schools.

The Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 caused significant damage to the buildings. Restoration is well underway, with more than half the site re-opened to the public. Buildings are re-opening in stages, prioritised depending on factors such as damage, heritage significance, safety and cost.

Click on the interactive map below to find out about each building’s restoration and history – be sure to scroll down to find out more. You can also hover over each building on the map to see its historical name and click through to more information.

Registry Student Union The Gym Engineering Common Room Library Biology, Observatory and Physics Chemistry School Of Art West Lecture Classics Building Rutherfords Den Clock Tower Boys High Workshop Great Hall

Rutherford’s Den (1877)

Scientific discovery and hands-on experimentation take centre stage at the state-of-the-art Rutherford’s Den exhibition.

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The Great Hall (1882)

Now open to the community and available for hire, the Great Hall has been extensively strengthened, repaired and restored, although most of this work is intentionally hidden beneath its beautiful heritage fabric.

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Plantroom (2017)

The only new build onsite, this largely underground, centralised plant room and workshop is on track to be completed in early 2017.

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Boys’ High (1881)

Tenants with a specialty retail focus are being sought for Boys’ High, including a café, and creative industries such as fashion, locally produced products, food and galleries. Christchurch's i-SITE is its first confirmed tenant.

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Clock Tower (1877)

Situated between the bustling new office precinct and Botanic Gardens, the Clock Tower has been restored with hospitality in mind.

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Classics (1888)

Classics is nestled between the Great Hall and West Lecture and features beautiful indoor spaces.

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West Lecture (1917)

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 and writers in residence.

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School of Art (1878)

The School of Art’s first floor will be filled with a creative industries co-working hub, while the ground floor will host hospitality, venues and community event spaces.

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Chemistry (1910)

The new, modern layout of this building has been perfectly tailored for University of Canterbury music and classics students.

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Observatory, Biology and Physics (1896)

Dedicated studio spaces, workshops and accommodation are focuses for these buildings, along with the restoration of its fully functioning observatory.

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Library (1916)

The Library has been fully restored and leased and is open to the public as an art gallery. Located near the centre of the Arts Centre site, its open plan space and natural lighting is perfect for exhibitions.

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Common Room (1916)

The two-storey Common Room has been restored to its original open plan design and is being used for arts and education.

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Engineering (1891)

Engineering’s expansive rooms will house the likes of galleries, performance and exhibition spaces, conference and meeting rooms, studios and offices.

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Gymnasium (1908)

Fully restored and leased, this beautiful building is complemented by a modern, soaring glass canopy.

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Student Union (1929)

The Student Union was one of the most severely damaged buildings on the site, with the February 2011 earthquake severely compromising its structural strength.

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Registry (1916)

Registry has been fully restored and leased. Spaces facing onto Market Square are dedicated to artisan food providers, while the rest of the building houses arts organisations and commercial tenants.

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