First opened in 1972, the Christchurch Town Hall was designed by Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney of Warren and Mahoney Architects with acoustic assistance from Professor Harold Marshall. For nearly 50 years it has been regarded as one of our city’s most recognisable pieces of architecture, and one of New Zealand’s premier performance venues.
The seismic events in Canterbury of 2010 and 2011 left the building extensively damaged and in need of significant repair. Like many public buildings there was debate around the future of the structure and in June 2015 Christchurch councillors voted unanimously to rebuild the iconic building at a cost of $127.5 million.
While the cost rose to $167 million, it was a decision that many in Canterbury rejoiced over. For Chris Wallace, Vbase Projects General Manager, it was a decision that has established a sense of familiarity in an ever-changing city landscape. ‘As a city we have lost so much of our history and heritage. The repair of the Town Hall has given rise to something old and familiar. It is a building that everyone in the city has a story about.’ Be it a concert they attended, an event they were part of, or even school prizegivings, it has long been an integral part of our city’s landscape and now will continue to be so for many more years. ‘What is so beautiful about this repair job,’ continues Chris, ‘is that it essentially looks the same, inside and out, but it has undergone a significant upgrade and overall refurbishment.’
The three years of restoration work included strengthening the structure to 100 per cent of the new building standard, reinstating iconic heritage features and subtle improvements to enhance the offering to event organisers and attendees. ‘We now have Wi-Fi running throughout the building and digital screens supporting the static ones,’ explains Chris, ‘as well as improved flow, enabling large crowds to move throughout with greater ease.’
Testament to the role the building plays in Christchurch was the 11,000- plus crowd that attended the public open days in late February (2019). Following the official reopening by Mayor Lianne Dalziel on 23 February, the first ticketed event was held on 1 March, a combined concert with Shapeshifter and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. ‘There was a nice collaboration of old and new with this event,’ comments Chris. ‘It certainly kick-started this era of the building’s life with a bang.
‘The Town Hall is another string in the bow for what Christchurch can offer event organisers, big or small,’ he concludes. ‘For us at Vbase it is great to be back in this versatile and iconic building. We see our role in Christchurch as contributing to a vibrant city, as we make life eventful for Cantabrians.’
AT A GLANCE
There is a space for every event, big or small at the Christchurch Town Hall.
The Douglas Lilburn Auditorium is ready to host the big events once more. The acoustics are considered to be amongst the best in the world, making this the ideal location for everything from conferences and gala dinners to rock concerts and classical music.
Modernisation of the seating configurations in both the Douglas Lilburn Auditorium and the James Hay Theatre allow the spaces to be easily transformed into a spectacular setting for gala dinners, cocktail receptions and other special events.
The Victoria Room offers a distinctive space for events, while the Limes and Avon Rooms sit on the banks of the Avon River and provide stunning backdrops. With striking wooden features throughout, each room is as unique as the other. From dinners and cocktail receptions to product launches, breakout spaces and presentations, these rooms can work together or as a standalone space.
WORDS Lucinda Diack