History


Explore the rich history of The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora site, formerly used by Canterbury College (now the University of Canterbury), and Christchurch Boys’ and Christchurch Girls’ High Schools. There are 23 buildings on site, of which 22 are listed by Heritage New Zealand with 21 categorised as Historic Place Category One.

Pre-colonial cultural history

The Arts Centre site has a rich pre-colonial cultural history. We are working with mana whenua  Ngāi Tūāhuriri to present this.  Please check back soon.

First aquisition of land (1873)

The first block of land is purchased for Canterbury College by the Provincial government

Professor Alexander Bickerton (1842 - 1929)

In 1874 Professor Alexander Bickerton became the first professor of Chemistry at Canterbury College.

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John Macmillan Brown (1845 - 1935)

John Macmillan Brown was one of New Zealand’s great educational pioneers.

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Sir Julius von Haast (1822 - 1887)

Lecturer in geology at Canterbury College from 1873, von Haast became Chair of Geology in 1876.

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Clock Tower & Rutherford's Den (1877)

The Clock Tower, including what is now known as Rutherford’s Den, was Canterbury College’s first stone building.

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School of Art (1878)

The Christchurch Girls’ High School, a Gothic Revival-style building, was designed by provincial architect Thomas Cane and was built of ‘grey’ basalt and limestone facings.

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Ada Wells (1863 - 1933)

A tireless campaigner for women’s equality and economic independence, Well attended Canterbury College from 1881 -1882.

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Boy's High (1881)

Christchurch Boys’ High School building was designed by architect William Armson.

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Helen Connon (c.1860 - 1903)

The first woman accepted to study at Canterbury College and the first female honours graduate in the British Empire in 1881!

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Great Hall (1882)

The Great Hall opens to both acclaim and controversy on Diploma Day 1882.

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Classics (1888)

Foundations for the Classics building were laid in 1881 but it was not actually built until 1888.

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Ernest, Lord Rutherford (1871 - 1937)

Studying at Canterbury College from 1890 - 1895 Rutherford, known as the Father of Nuclear Physics won a Nobel Prize in 1908.

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Jack Erskine (1872 - 1960)

Jack Erskine, a contemporary of Lord Ernest Rutherford, proved as adept at the stock market as he did at electrical engineering.

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Equatorial telescope (1891)

James Townsend donates his prized equatorial telescope to Canterbury College and significant funds from the Astronomical Society are given for an observatory to be built.

Engineering (1891)

These buildings originally housed Canterbury College’s School of Engineering – the most advanced engineering school in the British Empire.

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Sir Āpirana Ngata (1874 - 1950)

New Zealand’s first Māori graduate, Ngata graduates from Canterbury College with a Bachelor of Arts in 1894

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Biology and Observatory (1896)

The last major designs by architect Benjamin Mountfort, the Biology and Observatory buildings were completed in this year.

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Alice Candy (1888 - 1977)

A highly influential academic staff member and advocate for women in education.

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Gymnasium (1908)

The Gymnasium is designed by architects Collins and Harman to complement the neighbouring Boys’ High School building, serving as a theatre and assembly hall.

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Chemistry (1910)

Architects Collins and Harman designed the College’s Chemistry building with an emphasis on providing large, well-lit and accessible interior spaces.

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Library (1916)

Designed by Collins and Harman, the Library design was very influenced by architect, Samuel Hurst Seager.

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Registry (1916)

Canterbury College’s Registry building was built in to accommodate the College’s administration staff.

Common Room (1916)

Named after Clifford Collins, this building was used as a common room for the male students of Canterbury College.

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West Lecture (1917)

The Canterbury College’s largest lecture theatre was used mainly by the history department and for public lectures.

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Physics (1917)

The Physics building was designed by Collins and Harman in a Gothic Revival style. After its construction, the Physics building housed nine laboratories.

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Infill building ‘Biology Extensions’ added. (1918)
Dame Ngaio Marsh (1895 - 1982)

An acclaimed mystery writer, Marsh first studied at the College’s School of Art while still a schoolgirl and in 1919 she graduated with an arts degree.

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Clarence Edward Beeby (1902 - 1998)

Beeby had an enormous influence on the development of the education system in New Zealand

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James Shelley (1884 - 1961)

The first lecturer in Art History at Canterbury College, Shelley played a prominent role in expanding the Workers’ Educational Association and setting up the Drama Society.

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James Shelley opens the Little Theatre (1921)
Olivia Spencer Bower (1905 - 1982)

A talented artist and supporter of women in the arts, Spencer Bower left a lasting legacy.

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Small western extension added to Registry (1926)
Rita Angus (1908 - 1970)

Regarded as a leading 20th Century New Zealand artist, Angus studied at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1927 to 1933.

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Student Union (1929)

This building was a result of extensive remodelling of the residence of a local merchant, established alongside the College in 1883.

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Sir Karl Raimund Popper (1902 -1994)

Knighted in 1965, Popper is widely regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of twentieth century science.

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Great Hall stained-glass window (1938)

This window of about 4000 individual pieces of glass was originally installed in 1938, 20 years after its design was completed by Martin Travers.

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Marion Steven and James Logie (1938)

Marion Steven, wife of James Logie who was Registrar of Canterbury College from 1950-1956, was the driving force behind the James Logie Memorial Collection of antiquities.

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Sir Ian Axford (1933 – 2010)

An astrophysicist, Sir Ian Axford's illustrious career made him a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986 and New Zealander of the Year in 1995.

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The Little Theatre burns down (13 February 1953)
Dame Margaret Mahy (1936 -2012)

New Zealand's most celebrated children's author .

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The School of Art moves to Ilam (1957)
Beatrice Tinsley (1941 - 1981)

A world leader in modern cosmology and one of the most creative and significant theoreticians in modern astronomy.

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Southern Ballet (1975 - 2011)

Founded in 1974 by Miss Lorraine Peters, the Southern Ballet School occupied the Engineering building from 1975 until the February 2011 earthquake.

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The Court Theatre (1976)

Founded in 1971, the popular Court Theatre came to The Arts Centre in 1976 and operated two auditoria until the February 2011 earthquake.

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Academy Cinema (1976 - 2011)

A 222 seat art-house cinema is opened in the Gymasium by Masters Cinemas and managed by Rodney Cook.

The Arts Centre Trust (1978)

Replacing the previous Arts Centre of Christchurch Inc, the Arts Centre Trust formally becomes the owner of the site on the last day of 1978.

Dux de Lux (1978 - 2011)

Dux de Lux beer garden, music venue, and resturant is opened in the Student Union building. It was a popular vegetarian/seafood restaurant and gig venue.

Women's Resource Centre (Late 1970's)

Started in the late 1970's, this centre was part of a response to empower women to learn about issues such as health, rights, and self defence.

Gingko Print Workshop/Salamander Gallery (1980 - 2011)

Originally established as a print workshop managed by Jule Einhorn this gallery was known for selling and supporting the development of works on paper.

The Arts Centre Mākete begins (1981)

This vibrant Sunday market has long been a major feature of The Arts Centre’s programmes.

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Free Theatre opens (1982)

University staff and students formed the Free Theatre in 1979 and built a 100-seat theatre onsite in 1982. Returning in 2014 post-earthquakes, the company activated the Gym until 2018.

Cloisters Cinema (1986 - 2011)

New Academy Cinema owners Rodney and Annette Cook open additional 70 and 11 seat cinemas, along with Casablanca Wine Bar.

The Contemporary Art Annex opens in the Library (1988)
Cave Rock Gallery (1988-2011)

Originally owned by Noeline Brokenshire, the Cave Rock Gallery opened in 1988. At the time of the quakes it was owned by Leon White.

Major earthquake strengthening begins (1989)
Fudge Cottage (1990 - present)

A favourite with locals and visitors alike, this family owned local confectionary producer is one of The Arts Centre's most iconic tenants.

Heritage New Zealand registration (1990)

Since 1990, The Arts Centre buildings have been registered with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga as a collection

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Conservation plan written for 16 stone buildings (1991)
Annie's Wine Bar & Restaurant opens (1992)
Buskers Festival (1994)

Founded in 1994, the Busker's Festival is the largest outdoor festival in New Zealand.

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SCAPE Public Art (1996 - present)

Now based at The Arts Centre, SCAPE has become the largest producer of new contemporary public artwork in New Zealand.

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UC's SoFA Gallery opens in the Library building (2001)
Earthquake strengthening (2004 and 2008)

The Registry building is earthquake strengthened in 2004, and the School of Art building is earthquake strengthened in 2008.

A 7.1 magnitude quake hits Canterbury (4 Sept 2010)
Devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake (22 Feb 2011)
Earthquake damage (2010 and 2011)

22 out of The Arts Centre's 23 category one buildings were badly damaged in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, with significant compromise to their structural integrity.

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The restoration project begins (2012)

The Trust Board and management were faced with the mammoth task of restoring the social and built heritage of the Arts Centre for the people of Christchurch.

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Registry reopens (2013)

This building has been extensively restored and was the first on the site to reopen after the 2010 - 2011 earthquakes.

Gynasium reopens - Backstage Social Club (2014)

Fully restored, the Gym is now complemented by a modern, soaring glass canopy.

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WW100 memorial window (2015)

Reinstalled in November 2015, the window was rededicated to the memory of all staff and students associated with the site who served in World War One.

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Boys' High reopens (2015 - 2016)

The exterior of this newly restored building looks the same as it did pre-earthquakes but, once inside, a lot of its new strengthening is visible.

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Clocktower & Rutherford's Den reopens (2016)

Situated between the bustling new office precinct and Botanic Gardens, the Clock Tower has been lovingly restored.

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Great Hall reopens (2016)

The stunning 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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Chemistry reopens (2016)

Student life has returned to the Arts Centre in Christchurch’s central city.

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Canterbury Heritage Awards (2016)

The meticulous restoration of the Great Hall is recognised by these awards, with it taking out both the Supreme and Seismic awards.

Common Room Reopens (2016)

The two-storey Common Room has been restored to its original open plan design and is being used by Two Productions, Original Scripts, and Voices Co.

Workshop and Plantroom (2016)

The only new build, it is from here that water drawn from and returned to artesian wells is circulated around the site for central heating.

The Library reopens (2017)

The Library has been fully restored and leased and has re-opened to the public as The Central Art Gallery, a contemporary dealer gallery.

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Classics reopens (2017)

The Classics building provides a link to the Great Hall’s magnificent turret, plus features an enclosed balcony that overlooks the North Quad.

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UNESCO Asia‐Pacific Awards (2017)

The restoration of the Great Hall and Clock Tower win a Merit Award in the UNESCO Asia‐Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

School of Art completed (2018)

This restored building now houses a community meeting room, the Maker Workshop, and offices. Wine bar Cellar Door will open there in late December 2019.

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Newly appointed Creative Residences open (2019)

A beautifully designed space containing four bedrooms and shared living spaces becomes the new home of creative residents at The Arts Centre.

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The opening of Lumière Cinemas completes the West Lecture's reopening (2019)

This building is now home to the stunning Lumière Cinemas as well as the four bedroom creative residence.

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Professor Alexander Bickerton (1842 - 1929)

In 1874 Professor Alexander Bickerton became the first professor of Chemistry at Canterbury College. He was acknowledged as a brilliant teacher, remaining in this role until 1902. Ernest Rutherford was his most famous pupil. Professor Bickerton was a somewhat unconventional figure in early Christchurch.

He built a large house, Wainoni, with the aim of establishing a new form of society. This was unsuccessful, so he turned the property into a garden where thousands came to watch performances, including naval battles with real explosives, shipwrecks and rescues staged on an artificial lake.

Professor Bickerton’s controversial views on many topics including university reform and the institution of marriage finally led to him being sacked from the University. He returned to England in 1910 and died in 1929. The year before his death he was made Professor Emeritus of Canterbury College.

John Macmillan Brown (1845 - 1935)

John Macmillan Brown was one of New Zealand’s great educational pioneers. In 1874, he was selected as professor of English and Classics at Canterbury College, one of three foundation chairs.

Five years later the duties of this double chair were rearranged and he taught English history and English literature until 1895, when he resigned on account of ill health.

His commanding personality contributed to his reputation as one of the most outstanding university teachers in New Zealand before 1900. He was also one of the first practical pioneers in Australasia of higher education for women.

Upon retiring in 1895, John became a member and chancellor of the senate of the University of New Zealand where he devoted himself to Pacific studies.

Sir Julius von Haast (1822 - 1887)

Prussian born Julius von Haast was Canterbury’s provincial geologist from 1861 to 1868. He was also the first director of Canterbury Museum, starting the museum from his collections.

Lecturing at Canterbury College from 1873, his cheerful personality and world renowned reputation as a geologist were too good to be ignored and he was later appointed Chair of Geology at Canterbury College in 1876 while carrying on his work at the Museum.

Renowned for his geological explorations of New Zealand, von Haast wrote Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland, N.Z. (1879) and in 1867 was elected fellow of the Royal Society. He received a hereditary knighthood by the Emperor of Austria in 1875 and was awarded the Royal Geographical Society's Patron's Gold Medal in 1884.

Clock Tower & Rutherford's Den (1877)

The Clock Tower, including what is now known as Rutherford’s Den, was Canterbury College’s first stone building, designed as a tribute to the Christian Oxbridge tradition.

Built of basalt and limestone from Christchurch’s Port Hills, the Clock Tower features a tiled entrance and a stained-glass window overlooking the divided staircase.

On both sides of the Clock Tower, Canterbury College created tiered classrooms where English, law, classics, mathematics, modern languages, biology and geology were taught.

Rutherford’s Den is dedicated to the memory of Nobel Prize winner Ernest, Lord Rutherford who studied, attended lectures, and undertook his earliest experiments at Canterbury College.

School of Art (1878)

The Christchurch Girls’ High School building opened in 1878. The Gothic Revival-style building was designed by architect Thomas Cane and was built of ‘grey’ basalt and limestone facings.

Due to an expanding roll, in 1882 the Girls’ High moved to Cranmer Square. Canterbury College’s School of Art moved into the building and over several years a number of alterations and additions were made — the most notable of which were designed by eminent Canterbury architect, Samuel Hurst Seager.

The trades of sign writing, painting and decorating were taught at the School of Art. But from the 1920s, an emphasis on the fine arts saw the school produce a strong group of painters taught by esteemed artists such as Francis Shurrock. Students included Rata Lovell-Smith, Rita Angus, Olivia Spencer-Bower and, later, William Sutton. Many notable artists such as Elizabeth Kelly, Evelyn Page and Sydney Lough Thompson later returned to teach at the College and led the most progressive art school in the Southern Hemisphere.

In 1957 the School of Fine Arts was the first University department to move to the new Ilam campus

Ada Wells (1863 - 1933)

Ada Wells was a well-known teacher, reformer, and activist in late nineteenth-early twentieth century Christchurch.

As a tireless campaigner for women’s equality and economic independence, Ada is well-known for her contribution to the suffrage movement of the 1880s and 90s where she worked closely with Kate Sheppard as a fervent and efficient organiser.

She attended Canterbury College in 1881 and went on to teach at Christchurch Girls’ High School. She was an advocate of free kindergartens, universal access to secondary education and the reform of local government, the charitable aid system and prisons. In 1917, Ada was the first woman elected to the Christchurch City Council.

Image and text courtesy of Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury.

Boy's High (1881)

The Gothic Revival-inspired Christchurch Boys’ High School building was designed by architect William Armson and completed in May 1881.

The main function of Christchurch Boys’ High School was to increase the number of students qualified to enter Canterbury College. By 1897, Boys’ High was New Zealand’s largest secondary school and by 1913 the building was expanded for a fourth time. The school roll continued to grow, requiring the school to relocate in 1926 to its present day location in Riccarton.

Located at 28 Worcester Boulevard, the exterior looks the same as it did pre-earthquakes but, once inside, a lot of its new strengthening is visible. Most noticeable are horizontal steel frames at ceiling height, although plenty of other strengthening techniques have been cleverly hidden beneath heritage features.

The restoration has revealed many historic treasures that had been hidden over the years, including a stained-glass window that overlooks the foyer’s grand staircase.

Helen Connon (c.1860 - 1903)

Helen Connon was Canterbury College’s first woman student and the first in the British Empire to receive an Honours degree when her Master of Arts was conferred in 1881.

Helen Connon played a pioneering role in the education of New Zealand women. When a founding professor of Canterbury College, John Macmillan Brown, agreed to enrol her, that decision finally settled the issue of admission of women into New Zealand Universities. She graduated with a BA in 1880, followed by an MA with first class honours in English and Latin in 1881.

A tireless worker, she impressed Macmillan Brown by becoming one of five teachers at Christchurch Girl’s High School during her university studies. She became the school’s second principal in 1882 and dedicated herself wholeheartedly to making educational opportunities accessible to girls.

She taught English, Latin and mathematics and introduced practical courses in cookery, shorthand, bookkeeping, nursing and dressmaking while expanding teaching in science and physical education, including gymnastics, swimming and tennis.

She married John Macmillan Brown in 1886 and managed to juggle a busy married life, including two children, with her continued work as principal at Christchurch Girls’ High School until finally resigning in 1894. After an extended period of overseas travel during which her health suffered, she finally died in Rotorua in 1903.

In her honour, her husband established the Helen Macmillan Brown Bursary to be awarded to up to ten women students of UC each year. Women students today still benefit from this special legacy.

In 1916 the first hall of residence at the University of Canterbury was built to accommodate up to 70 women students each year. It was named for Helen Connon. When UC moved to Ilam in the 1970s, the building became part of Cathedral Grammar School.

Text courtesy of the University of Canterbury

Great Hall (1882)

Because classroom space was in short supply, a hall was considered a luxury for Canterbury College. The Great Hall (originally called College Hall) opened to both acclaim and controversy on Diploma Day 1882.

In its early years, it housed the college’s small library and was used for public lectures and formal graduation ceremonies. Over time, the university allowed greater use of the hall for events such as music recitals, student dances and society gatherings. Prior to the earthquakes, as it does again now, the hall held a wide range of events and performances year-round.

The hall strongly reflects local heritage and culture. It makes rich use of native timbers, with kauri and rimu panelling, along with rewarewa, totara and matai lozenges.

It provides space for memorial plaques and icons, the first of which was dedicated to Helen Connon, the first woman to graduate from university with honours in the British Empire.

A special feature of the building is the Memorial Window designed by Martin Travers and originally installed in 1938. It comprises of 4,000 individual pieces of glass.

Classics (1888)

Foundations for the Classics building were laid in 1881 but it was not actually built until 1888.

At first the front of the building was obscured by a large tin shed. Its architecture became integrated with the site in 1916 when the shed was removed, and arcades and a balcony were added.

As the university expanded, offices filled part of the balcony and the space eventually became fully enclosed studio space.

“Salvete intrantes” (Greetings to those who enter) is inscribed above the entrance and above the exit it reads “Valete exeuntes” (Farewell to those who leave). The Greek inscription above the fireplace translates to “If there is any prosperity among men, it does not show itself without toil”.

Ernest, Lord Rutherford (1871 - 1937)

Nobel prize-winning scientist Ernest, Lord Rutherford completed his undergraduate degree at Canterbury College between 1890 and 1895 while it was based at the Arts Centre site.

While a student, he carried out much of his own research into the high frequency magnetisation of iron in a basement den in the Clock Tower Building. This building now houses an interactive science museum that showcases the research of Rutherford and his contemporaries.

In 1895, Rutherford was accepted to Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory in England where he studied radioactivity and named the two distinct rays emitted from radioactive materials – alpha and beta particles.

In 1900, he returned to Christchurch to marry his fiancé Mary Newton and together they travelled to Canada where Rutherford worked at McGill University in Montreal. It was here that he undertook the research that would win him the Nobel Prize in 1908.

In 1911, while at Manchester University, Rutherford produced the nuclear model of the atom and, with Niels Bohr, the static orbit model recognised worldwide today.

In 1932, under Rutherford’s guidance, James Chadwick would discover the neutron, and John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton would finally ‘split the atom’. The following year, Rutherford helped found the Academic Assistance Council, which aided academics displaced by Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany.

Rutherford maintained two typically New Zealand qualities that served him well throughout his life – pragmatism and modesty.

During his lifetime, and posthumously, Rutherford was recognised with numerous prizes, honorary degrees and fellowships. His drive for scientific discovery was unbounded, as was his strong belief in the support of education, research and innovation.

His successes laid the foundation for future scientific progress, including many of today’s technologies we take for granted such as radios, TVs, sonar, the Geiger counter, mobile radios and telephones and smoke alarms.

Visit the Rutherford’s Den interactive science museum at The Arts Centre to learn more about the discoveries of Rutherford and his contemporaries.

Jack Erskine (1872 - 1960)

Jack Erskine, a contemporary of Lord Ernest Rutherford, proved as adept at the stock market as he did at electrical engineering.

In the 1890's, Erskine worked at Canterbury College with Ernest Rutherford on a number of electrical experiments and was awarded the Exhibition of 1851 Scholarship as an engineer of exceptional promise.

After working in Germany and London, he returned to the College to obtain first class certificates in strengths of materials, advanced steam, mechanics and machinery. He then worked for the General Electric Company in the US followed by the Sulphide Corporation at the Broken Hill mines in Australia, and again for General Electric in Australia.

In the 1920s, Erskine worked as a private consultant, applying his analytical skills to the stock market which he played with great success.

When he died in 1960, his will established the Erskine Programme, a trust fund to support teaching staff overseas to increase their knowledge of any subject taught in the science, engineering or commerce faculties and better enable them to teach those subjects.

This legacy, known today as the Erskine Programme, still supports academics travelling to and from UC, and the building that houses mathematics and statistics at the University is named for him.

Image and text courtesy of Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury.

Engineering (1891)

Gifted engineer Robert Julian Scott was employed by Canterbury College to pioneer development of the School of Engineering. He had previously deigned Australasia’s first motorcar, the country’s first refrigerated railway wagon and New Zealand Railways’ first locomotive.

Completed in 1891 (Mechanical Engineering), 1902 (Electrical Engineering), 1906 (Hydraulic Lab) and 1923 (Electrical Machines Lab), Canterbury College’s School of Engineering was widely recognised until the 1920s as the most advanced engineering school in the British Empire. The Hydraulic Lab was added to in 1914

The first building was designed by renowned New Zealand architect Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, the man behind much of The Arts Centre’s distinctive Gothic Revival architectural style, to be built in basalt and limestone. The second one was designed by his son Cyril Mountfort, and Collins and Harman designed the others.

Incorporating mechanical, electrical and hydraulic engineering laboratories, Canterbury College’s School of Engineering was widely recognised until the 1920s as the most advanced engineering school in the British Empire.

Sir Āpirana Ngata (1874 - 1950)

In 1894, New Zealand’s first Māori graduate, Sir Āpirana Ngata, graduated from Canterbury College with a Bachelor of Arts.

His completion of two further degrees (Master of Arts and Bachelor of Law) made him one of the most highly qualified graduates in New Zealand at the time.

Ngata served as a member of parliament for 38 years, was the founder of the Māori Battalion and is renowned for his tireless work for Māori people. He lifted them spiritually and economically in the development of land, culture, education and sport, and contributed strongly to the preservation of Māori language and customs.

Biology and Observatory (1896)

The last major designs by architect Benjamin Mountfort, the Observatory and Biology buildings were completed in 1896. In 1918, an infill building ‘Biology Extensions’ was added.

The ground floor of the Biology building housed laboratories that were used for zoological dissections and plant studies and was also home to a preparation room. The upper level was a professor’s room, storeroom and lecture room. The first-floor landing led to the Townsend Observatory.

The Observatory was built to house the equatorial telescope gifted to the College by James Townsend in 1871.

Prior to the earthquakes, the University’s astronomical department held public viewing sessions in the observatory, using the original 1864 telescope, every Friday night from March to October.

Alice Candy (1888 - 1977)

Motivated by a mother who had been unable to fulfil her own dreams to become a teacher, Alice Candy enrolled at Canterbury College in 1907 where she studied economics and political science. She gained her BA in 1910 and an MA with Hons in Political Science in 1911.

After teaching in various schools around Christchurch, she was appointed a lecturing position in history at Canterbury College in 1920, bringing new skills to the department and working closely with its head, Professor James Hight, in a highly complementary way.

Together they published a Short History of the Canterbury College for its 1923 Jubilee, which included a register of students, graduates and associates that was largely Alice’s work and has provided a rich resource for subsequent surveys, especially of women graduates.

She became an ardent advocate for academic women, both students and graduates. Alice was instrumental in the establishment of the Canterbury Women Graduates’ Association, held many senior positions in the National Council of Women of New Zealand, and represented New Zealand at International conferences for women and students in both Geneva and Austria.

When she was appointed warden of Helen Connon Hall in 1936, she watched over 75 women who stayed at the hostel every year, and who were grateful for the sound advice of a woman who had long experience in the academic world, alongside the perception and tolerance natural in someone of her achievements.

When she resigned from that position in 1951, she returned to Canterbury College as a member of the College Council from 1954 to 1957.

Image and text courtesy of Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury

Gymnasium (1908)

The Gymnasium was built to complement the neighbouring Boys’ High School building, serving as a theatre and assembly hall. It was designed in Gothic Revival style by architects Collins and Harman.

Between the two buildings was a swimming pool that was built in 1881. This was built over in the 1950s to provide workshop space for the University’s maintenance staff. The site of the pool is where the modern canopy is located today.

Chemistry (1910)

The College’s Chemistry building, opened in 1910, was designed by College architects Collins and Harman. The building was created with an emphasis on providing large, well-lit and accessible interior spaces at the insistence of Dr W.P. Evans who replaced Professor Alexander Bickerton.

The foundation stone was laid on 4 June 1909 and the building was opened by Sir Joseph Ward on 23 February 1910 with Bickerton present at the occasion.

The building was constructed from Halswell basalt (walls), with Oamaru stone (facings), Hoon Hay basalt (pillars), and Timaru basalt in (steps).

Library (1916)

The Library was originally opened in 1916. Designed by Collins and Harman, it was very much influenced by architect Samuel Hurst Seager, who had previously designed to place such a building at the centre of the site to create two quadrangles bordered by cloisters.

Features including the three Tudor gothic arched windows on the northern face, elaborate finials at the points of the gable and the Tudor flowers cresting the roof, all exemplify Seager’s richness of detail.

From 1934 to the 1970s, under chief librarian Clifford Collins’ tenure, the library’s book collection grew from 15,000 to 300,000. The basement was full, and stacks were kept in forty different locations across the College buildings. Once described as an architectural gem but an impossible library, by the early 1950s only one student in seventy could be seated.

Common Room (1916)

Designed by Collins and Harman, the Common Room is a high Victorian Gothic-style building. Used as a common room for the male students of Canterbury College, it was named after Clifford Collins.

From 1929, when the Student Union building was opened, the common room was put to a variety of uses, including as the offices of student magazine Canta in the 1930s.

West Lecture (1917)

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.

When viewed from the Botanic Gardens, one can see how the right hand bay of windows steps up, indicating the location of a lecture theatre. There was one lecture theatre on the ground floor and one on the first floor.

Physics (1917)

Opened in 1917, the Physics building was designed by Collins and Harman in a Gothic Revival style. After its construction, the Physics building housed nine laboratories.

From 1937 to 1952, the basement of the Physics building was home to the National Radiation Laboratory and its research into treatment for cancer and tuberculosis.

From this building, the Physics Department also contributed to the war effort in the South Pacific by conducting successful research into the best time of day for radio transmissions.

After the war, the Physics Department moved to the University’s Ilam campus. The English Department moved into the vacant building and remained there until 1974 before also relocating to Ilam.

Dame Ngaio Marsh (1895 - 1982)

Acclaimed mystery writer Dame Ngaio Marsh first studied at the College’s School of Art while still a schoolgirl and in 1919 she graduated with an arts degree.

She then joined a touring theatre company and travelled to England to pursue her theatrical studies. Marsh returned to Christchurch when her mother became terminally ill and by the end of the 1930s she had published seven more novels (her first was written in England) and had become an international celebrity.

Marsh’s association with the University continued in her later years as drama lecturer and producer for the Drama Society’s Little Theatre. The theatre seated just over 200 people. It not only taught skills to student actors who looked to a future on the stage, it was also an important social centre and its use of up-to-date technology was exciting for early audiences.

In 1967, the University of Canterbury named the theatre at its new Ilam campus after her.

Clarence Edward Beeby (1902 - 1998)

Clarence Edward Beeby is described as the ‘father of New Zealand’s modern education system’. He had an enormous influence on the development of the education system in New Zealand, as director of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NCER), and head of the Ministry of Education.

He dedicated his life to fulfilling the egalitarian creed he wrote:

Every person, whatever the level of his academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has the right, as a citizen, to a free education of a kind for which he is best suited and to the fullest extent of his powers.

Beeby enrolled at Canterbury College in 1920 and was awarded with honorary doctorates from the University of Canterbury, University of Otago, and Victoria University of Wellington.

Beeby’s influence was not confined to this country – he played a large role in shaping the work and purpose of UNESCO. His son, Chris Beeby, was the distinguished New Zealand diplomat and international lawyer who was portrayed in Ben Affleck’s film, Argo.

James Shelley (1884 - 1961)

James Shelley was the new chair of education at Canterbury College. Formerly Chair of Education at Southampton University, he arrived in New Zealand in 1920.

James was the first lecturer in the History of Art and played a prominent role in expanding the Workers’ Educational Association. Shortly after arriving in Christchurch around 1921 he established the Canterbury College Drama Society.

In 1927 he set up the Little Theatre in the Big Room of the former Boys’ High School building, which soon became the social centre of the university.

In 1936 he became New Zealand’s first director of broadcasting.

Olivia Spencer Bower (1905 - 1982)

Encouraged from her early years by her mother, painter Rosa Dixon, Spencer Bower pursued a serious artistic career throughout her life. During the nineteen-twenties and thirties, a period in which New Zealand women artists flourished, Olivia aligned herself with a circle of artists, which formed the basis for The Group and the New Zealand Artists’ Society. They were artistically progressive, critical of the limitations of art institutions and predominantly women. However, in the following decade, serious attention was systematically withdrawn from the achievements of these women, including such other significant artists as Louise Henderson, Rita Angus, Evelyn Page, Rata Lovell-Smith, Flora Scales, Lois White and Doris Lusk.

It was during that period, when she saw woman artists and their interests overlooked, that Olivia began to frame in her mind the idea of an award, initially intended to support women artists only but now open to promising male artists and sculptors.

In her later years, she gave serious consideration to these intentions, which resulted in her setting up a Charitable Foundation, the final details for which were only finalised five days before she died, in early July 1982.

Under her Will, Olivia left all her art works to the Perpetual Guardian Foundation, and these have been gradually realised by the Trustees to form a capital fund. In addition, a substantial body of archival work represented by some 1000 to 2000 image pages has been established permanently at the Christchurch Art Gallery in Christchurch, which material will be available to future art students and art historians.

The Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation has had a long association with The Arts Centre through artist in residency programmes.

Image courtesy of the University of Canterbury. Thank you to the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation for providing permission to use some of the above information.

Rita Angus (1908 - 1970)

Rita Angus, a pioneer of modern painting, was regarded as a leading figure in twentieth century New Zealand art.

Rita studied at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1927 to 1933 where she was trained in life drawing, still life and landscape painting. She was also a well-known traveller and pacifist.

In her distinctive and highly personal style, she produced some of New Zealand’s most memorable and well-loved paintings including landscapes, abstracts, self-portraits, and nocturnes.

When asked about her work in 1947, she replied “As a woman painter, I work to represent love of humanity and faith in mankind in a world, which is to me, richly variable and infinitely beautiful.

Text and Image courtesy of the University of Canterbury.

Student Union (1929)

Opened in 1929, this building was a result of extensive remodelling of the residence of a local merchant, established alongside the College in 1883.

In 1926, Canterbury College purchased Llanmaes, a small building designed by Francis Petre – the Dunedin architect who also designed Christchurch’s Catholic Cathedral.

Architects Collins and Harman altered and extended the house considerably, and in 1929 the Students’ Association was established and the building was used as a common room for staff and students. The College Rector at the time, James Hight, considered the building a place where students could polish their social skills saying the building was “one of the real laboratories of life”.

After World War II, the building underwent major extensions as a result of the dramatic increase in returned servicemen.

Sir Karl Raimund Popper (1902 -1994)

Karl Popper arrived in Christchurch in 1937, having previously been awarded a PhD from the University of Vienna.

From 1937 to 1945, he taught philosophy at Canterbury College, stressing the need for research as well as teaching to be performed within a university.

During his time at the College he wrote and published The Open Society and its Enemies, comparing democracies founded on rational debate with authoritarian government. He went on to a position at the London School of Economics, and became a sought-after lecturer and speaker, attending conferences and debates around the world.

He was knighted in 1965 and today is widely regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of twentieth century science.

Great Hall stained-glass window (1938)

The Memorial Window was originally installed in 1938, 20 years after its design was completed by Martin Travers, a teacher at the royal College of Art in London. It depicts the service of humanity by action and thought and includes possibly the most portraits found in any 20th century English stained-glass window.

It is comprised of about 4,000 individual pieces of glass.

Marion Steven and James Logie (1938)

After ten years at Otago Medical School, Marion Steven won a research scholarship in pathology to Middlesex Hospital in London. She was forced to abandon her medical studies however, when upon arrival, she found the school had no facilities for training women.

She returned to New Zealand and enrolled at Canterbury College in 1938. While studying for a BA in Latin and German, a life-long passion for Greek History, Art and Literature was ignited and she continued to teach and study the Classics, both at UC and later at the University of Sydney.

It was here that she learned how important it was for Classics departments to have physical examples of Greek pottery as well as photographs. The first three pieces she bought were the beginnings of what became the Logie Collection.

When she married James Logie, Canterbury College Registrar in 1950, he helped establish an annual grant for the purchase of Greek pottery, which Marion was given charge of. Her acquisitions were both wise and shrewd.

When she supported a University of Melbourne expedition to Cyprus in 1955, her donation was rewarded with an allocation of Mycenaean finds from the site that greatly enhanced the growing collection. When her husband died in 1956, Marion gifted the collection to the University of Canterbury, stipulating that it be called the James Logie Memorial Collection and that it be used primarily for teaching.

The collection has now been rehoused in the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities which forms part of UC Arts, the University’s city location in the old Chemistry building of the historic Christchurch Arts Centre.

Image and text courtesy of Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury.

Sir Ian Axford (1933 – 2010)

Sir Ian Axford was an astrophysicist whose illustrious career made him a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986 and New Zealander of the Year in 1995.

Sir Ian obtained a double degree in Science and Engineering at the University of Canterbury during the 1950s.

His extraordinary career in astrophysics increased our understanding of the nature of planetary magnetospheres, comets, interplanetary space, the behaviour of interstellar gas and the origin of cosmic rays.

He was the first New Zealander since Lord Rutherford to be a Fellow of the Royal Society and, after being named New Zealander of the year in 1995, was knighted in 1996.

Text courtesy of the University of Canterbury

Dame Margaret Mahy (1936 -2012)

Dame Margaret Mahy is one of New Zealand's most celebrated children's authors, having written more than 120 titles that have been translated into 15 different languages.

After graduating from Canterbury University College in 1955, Margaret published her early stories in the NZ Department of Education School Journal.

Her first book, A Lion in the Meadow, was published in 1969 while working as a Librarian in the Canterbury Public Library. She produced over 100 picture books, 40 novels and 20 collections of short stories. Many of her works won medals and awards and have been translated into a host of languages around the world. 

In 1993, she was appointed to the Order of New Zealand, the highest of the country’s honours, for her lasting contribution to children's literature.

Image and text courtesy of Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury.

Beatrice Tinsley (1941 - 1981)

Beatrice Tinsley was one of the most creative and significant theoreticians in modern astronomy.

Known as “Queen of the Cosmos” Beatrice Tinsley’s work has had a profound influence on what scientists know about stars, the galaxy and the Universe itself.

Deciding by the age of 14 that she wanted to be an astrophysicist, she graduated from UC with an MSc in Physics with First Class Honours in 1961. She then completed her PhD on the evolution of universes at the University of Texas in just two years, receiving marks of 99% and 100%.

In 1974, she left Texas for a one year fellowship at the Lick Observatory of the University of California, before gaining an assistant professorship at Yale University. She became Professor of Astronomy at Yale in 1978, the same year she was diagnosed with melanoma.

She continued to publish until shortly before her death in 1981, producing over 100 scientific papers in her short 14 year academic career. She received a number of honours and accolades for her work. In 1986 the American Astronomical Society established the Beatrice M Tinsley Prize for outstanding creative contributions to astronomy or astrophysics and the University of Texas created a visiting professorship in astronomy in her honour.

The immense importance of her work was finally recognised in New Zealand in 2010 when the New Zealand Geographic Board named a mountain in her honour. Mt Tinsley stands at a proud 1,537 metres in the Kepler Mountains of Fiordland, 15 kilometres west of Te Anau.

Now UC Science precinct's impressive timber framed building, completed in 2019, is also named for her.

Image and text courtesy of Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury.

Southern Ballet (1975 - 2011)

Founded in 1974 by Miss Lorraine Peters, the Southern Ballet School occupied parts of the Engineering building from 1975 until the February 2011 earthquake, at which time there were 500 pupils attending classes. The school has an outstanding reputation with many students achieving distinction in their careers as dancers, performing in New Zealand and internationally to principal status.

Southern Ballet is affiliated to the British Ballet Organisation, The Royal Academy of Dance and NZ Academy of Modern Dance.

The philosophy of the school is to train dancers through the enjoyment of learning dance, to inspire confidence in all students, to develop movement and deportment and, above all, to widen the student’s imagination and appreciation of music from classical ballet to modern jazz. Discipline and respect for self and others are essential elements in their training philosophy as is the fostering of an active participation in and support of the arts.

The Court Theatre (1976)

The Court Theatre company was founded in 1971 by Yvette Bromley QSM and Mervyn Thompson.

After previous homes at the Canterbury Provincial Council Chambers, the Durham Street Art Gallery, Beggs Theatrette, and the Orange Hall on Worcester Street, the company moved to the Engineering building at The Arts Centre in 1976.

The Court operated two auditoria at The Arts Centre. Court One seated 291 in a broad ‘semi-thrust’ stage, staging at least eight productions each season totalling approximately 270 performances annually.

The Forge (formerly known as Court Two) seated 123 in a small studio space with the audience seated on either side.

After the February 2011 earthquake in which the Engineering building was extensively damaged, the company has been located in Addington.

More information about The Court Theatre can be found at www.courttheatre.org.nz

The Arts Centre Mākete begins (1981)

Originally called The Arts Centre Market when it opened in 1981, this weekend market has been a major feature of The Arts Centre’s activities. In 2009 an additional farmers market was started on Friday evenings called the Arts Centre Sole Market. The Markets were closed after the February 2011 earthquake and after some special one-off themed events The Arts Centre Mākete returned to being open every Sunday from November 2018.

Here you’ll find local artisans showcasing their quality, handmade goods, arts and crafts, freshly made delicacies and more.

Set against the backdrop of the historic Arts Centre, the mākete offers a relaxing Sunday shopping experience in the heart of the city from 10.00am to 4.00pm every Sunday.

Heritage New Zealand registration (1990)

Since 1990, The Arts Centre buildings have been registered with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga as a collection, in order to recognise the historical and architectural importance of not just the individual buildings, but the complex as a whole.

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 modern additions to the Registry building are not listed.

Buskers Festival (1994)

Now called Bread & Circus World Buskers Festival, this world renowned event was initially organised by Festival City Trust and is Ōtautahi Christchurch’s longest running festival. It began at The Arts Centre in 1994, with the Comedy Club starting at the Dux de Lux in 1997 and moving to the North Quad in 2004. This R18 event was attended by up to 1000 people each night of the festival.

Festival City Trust occupied several offices at The Arts Centre over the years, including in the Observatory and Classics. The current organiser is Strut & Fret, who utilise the Gym, now known as Backstage Social Club.

SCAPE Public Art (1996 - present)

SCAPE Public Art installs public art in Christchurch all year round with a focus on their annual Seasons.

Over the past 20 years SCAPE has become the largest producer of new contemporary public artwork in Aotearoa New Zealand. These artworks provide a unique point of difference for the city. Ambitious and high impact, they enhance the urban centre and raise the profile for public art in Christchurch.

Held in Christchurch’s central city public spaces and supported through a range of partnerships, the Seasons showcase leading national and international contemporary artists, and provide a springboard for emerging local talent. Works in the Seasons are created as a result of close collaboration between art and business.

SCAPE offices have been based at The Arts Centre since they began in 1996 and onsite installations have included works by Cat Auburn , Audrey Baldwin, Holly Best, Piri Cowie, Antony Gormley, Sam Harrison, Gregor Kregar, Nina Oberg Humphries, Seung Yul Oh’s, George Rickey, Kazu Nakagawa, and Greer Twiss.

Image credit: Antony Gormley’s, STAY, 2015-16. Commissioned by the Christchurch City Council Public Art Advisory Group. Produced by SCAPE Public Art.

Earthquake damage (2010 and 2011)

On 4 September 2010, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked New Zealand’s second largest city. Just as Christchurch was recovering from that, a more damaging earthquake struck the city on 22 February 2011, killing 185 people in the nation’s fifth most deadly disaster. A state of national emergency was declared and stayed in force until 30 April 2011. Throughout the city, many heritage buildings were in danger of collapsing, having been appreciably damaged and weakened by the previous quake.

The Arts Centre was not spared the devastating effect of both earthquakes. Twenty-two out of its 23 buildings were badly damaged, with significant compromise to their structural integrity, meaning the entire complex had to be closed to tenants and the public.

 An extensive, $290 million restoration programme is now well underway. This restoration project is the largest of its type in the world.

Much of the restoration work is being funded by insurance but the Arts Centre is relying on fundraising, grants, and partnerships in order to complete the project.

The main contractors and consultants that worked on the project were Fletcher Construction, Simon Construction, C Lund & Son, Hayley Construction, Leighs Construction Pedersen Read, Powell Fenwick Consultants, Holmes Consulting Group, Holmes Fire, Rhodes and Associates, Warren and Mahoney, Dave Pearson Architects and Stewart Stained Glass.

During this period of restoration, the site will re-open in stages, prioritised depending on factors such as damage, heritage significance, safety and cost. More than two-thirds of the site has already been reopened.

The restoration project begins (2012)

Following the earthquakes, The Arts Centre of Christchurch Trust Board was faced with the mammoth task of restoring the social and built heritage of the Arts Centre for the people of Christchurch.

Costing an estimated $290 million, the restoration is one of the largest heritage projects of its kind being undertaken globally. Added to this challenge is the fact that The Arts Centre is an independent charitable trust that relies largely on donations and grants to fund the restoration and maintenance of the site. Much of the work has been sped up to manage the project’s cost certainty.

The restoration task wasn’t necessarily to put things back as they were, but rather to respect the history of the site while moving it into the 21st century. The project objective is to achieve strengthening and restoration, whilst showing no visible signs of geometric change, and full heritage restoration both externally and internally.

The restoration process incorporated a fundamental re-appraisal of how modern technology could be retrofitted into heritage buildings, and the architects and engineers have drawn on The Arts Centre’s earliest history to guide their reinterpretation of the place. This was a complex task that involved juggling multiple stakeholder requirements.

While there was a concept of what was to be achieved, the implementation on site was the real challenge. Hands-on design development was required every day because no detail or space was the same. The Arts Centre worked closely with heritage teams at Christchurch City Council and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

Gynasium reopens - Backstage Social Club (2014)

Fully restored, this beautiful building is now complemented by a modern, soaring glass canopy in the space behind the Boys' High building where a pool was located back when the site was Canterbury College.

The Backstage Social Club is a home for Ōtautahi Christchurch arts, run by Strut & Fret Production House NZ, the company behind Bread & Circus – World Buskers Festival.

WW100 memorial window (2015)

Comprised of about 4,000 individual pieces of glass, the window was removed to ensure its safety while major earthquake repair work was carried out on the Great Hall. The window was not significantly damaged in the earthquake thanks to earlier strengthening work; however the lead was due for replacement, and there was some cracking in parts from age. The restoration of the Great Hall provided an opportunity to remove and work on the window.

Two people worked on the window continuously for one year before it was reinstalled in November 2015. A new isothermal system has been installed to protect the window from exterior elements and to aid soundproofing. The total estimated cost of the window restoration is $130,000.

In December 2015, the window was rededicated to the memory of all staff and students who served in World War One and who previously attended an institution once based on the site now known as the Arts Centre: Canterbury College, the School of Engineering, the School of Art, Christchurch Boys’ High School and Christchurch Girls’ High School. In addition, the 235 who perished are now honoured with dedication plaques that sit beneath the window.

Boys' High reopens (2015 - 2016)

Located at 28 Worcester Boulevard, the exterior looks the same as it did pre-earthquakes but, once inside, a lot of its new strengthening is visible. Most noticeable are horizontal steel frames at ceiling height, although plenty of other strengthening techniques have been cleverly hidden beneath heritage features.

The restoration has revealed many historic treasures that had been hidden over the years, including a stained glass window that overlooks the foyer’s grand staircase.

Boys’ High is now packed with boutique, independent retailers along with Christchurch's i-SITE visitor centre.

Clocktower & Rutherford's Den reopens (2016)

Situated between the bustling new office precinct and Botanic Gardens, the Clock Tower has been lovingly restored.

While it looks similar to how it did pre-earthquakes, it now features state-of-the-art services and infrastructure. This means the 19th Century building has 21st Century standards of accommodation, without compromising its beautiful heritage features.

The Clock Tower hosts some of The Arts Centre’s staff offices.  Bunsen café takes up the ground floor and flows outside to a seating area on Worcester Boulevard – just as its predecessor Le Cafe did. Restoration of the 1877 Gothic Revival building has given it a new lease of life while retaining its beautiful heritage features – including the well-known mezzanine dining area and distinctive ceiling. Bunsen’s design builds on this history, with its blend of city chic meets chemistry den – creating a space that, with a modern twist, builds on the character of a classic chemistry lab.

Rutherford’s Den is now an interactive science museum where all can enjoy learning about the history of scientific achievements on site.

Great Hall reopens (2016)

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.

Chemistry reopens (2016)

Student life has returned to The Arts Centre in Christchurch’s central city.

The University of Canterbury’s Music and Classics programmes, along with the James Logie Memorial Collection of Classical Antiquities have relocated to the Chemistry building, adjacent to the South Quad.

The building has been fully restored, custom-designed for UC College of Arts music and classics students. The building’s redesign also includes a new exhibition space – the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities – where the Logie Collection is now on permanent public display. Visit the current exhibition, open to the public Wednesday to Sundays 11am-3pm.

In line with the Arts Centre’s philosophy of making the site accessible to all, a new lift enables universal access. The opportunity to install state-of-the-art infrastructure has been maximised in the restoration, with the building featuring the latest in data, lighting and heating.

The restored building retains some of the existing historic walls, while other floor areas have been opened up to enable flexibility of use.

The Library reopens (2017)

The Library has been fully restored and leased and has re-opened to the public as The Central Art Gallery, a contemporary dealer gallery.  Located near the centre of the Arts Centre site, its open plan space and natural lighting is perfect for exhibitions.

The building is more sustainable and stronger than it has ever been following its post-earthquake restoration – all without compromising its beautiful heritage features.

Historically the Library basement was used to store books, have exhibitions, and house the Free Theatre’s avant-garde theatre rehearsals and shows, but now it features a state-of-the-art heating system for the Library and other nearby buildings.

Classics reopens (2017)

The Classics building provides a link to the Great Hall’s magnificent turret.  An enclosed Arcades balcony featuring 2m-wide triple slider window for uninterrupted views over North Quad has been added as well as new gender neutral toilet facilities.

Classics features one of two working fireplaces on the site and the former architects’ Boardroom converted into office space with own kitchenette.

The roof was retiled in new Welsh slate and lead and historic brickwork completely restored and the steel earthquake strengthening structures are hidden beneath the heritage features.

The Classics Boardroom and Conservatory are now available for hire.

School of Art completed (2018)

Prior to the 2011 earthquake, the School of Art housed Annie's Wine Bar and Restaurant, a publishing firm, a printing company, and music administration offices.

Thanks to a grant from the Canterbury Community Trust (now the Rata Foundation), the building was strengthened in 2007/2008, which meant that in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes it wasn’t as damaged as most other Arts Centre buildings.

The restored building was reopened in 2018 and now houses a community meeting room and the Maker Workshop, two spaces that can be hired by the public at accessible rates.  Upstairs there is a dance school and offices for arts organisations to lease.  Wine bar Cellar Door is now in the space where Annie’s Wine Bar & Restaurant used to be.

Newly appointed Creative Residences open (2019)

Prior to the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes there were residential apartments on site leased to private tenants and used for artist in residence programmes.

Partnerships with the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation and Asia New Zealand Foundation (along with The Arts Centre’s own artists in residence) made for a lively creative programme.

Visiting artists included Jimin Kim and Sukjoon Jang, Korea (visual art); Zoe and Juniper, USA (dance and visual art); Michel Tuffery (visual arts); Raewyn Hill (dance); Michael Brennand-Wood, UK (visual art); Mahinārangi Tocker (music); Lauren Lysart (visual art); Tim Main (object art); Zoe Roland (film); Charlotte Yates (music); Amy X Neuburg; California (music) and Areta Wilkinson (visual art/jewellery) Duncan Sarkies (writer), Veerle Rooms (visual art).

A new Creative Residence was opened in 2019. It has four bedrooms and shared living spaces and has already accommodated a mixture of emerging and high profile creatives such as Bic Runga (music), Nick Dow (music), and Behrouz Boochani (writer).

The opening of Lumière Cinemas completes the West Lecture's reopening (2019)

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

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

Steel beams were held in place with giant concrete blocks and steel braced the historic stone walls while the interior of the building was stripped, then reconstructed. Everything within the walls is new, apart from heritage-protected features such as the main stairwell, windows and stonework, and a lift has been installed for wheelchair accessibility.

The ground and lower floor of West Lecture has welcomed the return of boutique cinema to The Arts Centre with art deco themed Lumière Cinemas and it's resplendent Bijou Bar, while upstairs there is a four-bedroom Creative Residence for artists, scientists and other academics.