Built to last: Christchurch’s stunning new skyline

Fans of modern architecture will find plenty to see and photograph in Christchurch - New Zealand's largest South Island city.

Fans of modern architecture will find plenty to see and photograph in Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand's South Island.   

Glass, concrete, cardboard, timber, adventurous angles and cutting-edge technology: as Christchurch continues rebuilding after the earthquakes of 2010-11, bold new structures are emerging in the city. 

A few treasured historic buildings glitter anew, and many more are yet to come.  

Christchurch Art Gallery

The Christchurch Art Gallery is a landmark in the central city. 

This contemporary architectural statement with its undulating glass and metal facade is the largest art institution in the South Island and home to one of New Zealand’s most important public art collections (6400 artworks). It served as the city’s emergency hub following the earthquakes and has been through an intensive programme of seismic strengthening turning it into one of the safest and most earthquake-resilient galleries in the world.

The gallery reopened with an exhibition featuring a multi-layered treasury of works from the collection while the exterior has been lit with a major neon work by renowned English artist Martin Creed. Creed's EIGTBA, 2015 - Everything Is Going To Be Alright. The 46-metre-long, 1468mm-high, neon work is positioned on the Worcester Street Boulevard facade of the gallery building.

How to find it
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu sits on the edge of Christchurch’s historic Cultural Precinct - on the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street, and beside the historic tram line.

Christchurch’s eye-catching Bus Interchange 

German-born architect Carsten Auer, of Architectus, is dedicated to designing buildings that reflect Christchurch’s unique natural environment. Auer’s design for the new Christchurch Bus Interchange features a dramatic canopy-like roof, natural ventilation, underfloor heating and a ground-source heat pump. It also includes lockers, secure bike parks, 'retail pods' and cafés.    

Auer has also worked closely with the local Maori community, Ngai Tahu, to express the region’s Maori history with artworks by Ngai Tahu artists depicting migrations by Maori to the Canterbury Plains. The Interchange makes a great place to start your city tour – and parking’s not a worry.

How to find it
The Christchurch Bus Interchange is located on Colombo Street, between Lichfield and Tuam Streets. Ballantynes department store and the Re:Start Mall are just along Colombo Street. 

Stranges and Glendenning Hill Building

Architect Jasper van der Lingen, of Sheppard & Rout, is particularly interested in how buildings “help form the unique identity, memory and cultural setting of a place”. 

In Christchurch’s Stranges and Glendenning Hill Building, he acknowledges heritage architecture while adding a modern twist. Occupying a corner site, the triangular-shaped building with coloured glass fins is bold and contemporary, while its scale harmonises with other heritage buildings. 

And it’s not just an office building – a number of cafés on the ground floor are nestled amid brick and glass with a soaring central roof space.

How to find it
Stranges and Glendenning Hill Building is located on the corner of High Street and Lichfield Street, just along from the Christchurch Bus Interchange.

The ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ 

Designed by Japanese 'starchitect' Shigeru Ban in association with architect Yoshie Narimatsu, Christchurch’s Transitional Anglican Cathedral surprises and delights. 

Ban, who won the 2014 Pritzker Prize – architecture’s highest honour – used cardboard tubes as an integral part of the cathedral’s design, together with timber, steel and concrete.  

The steeply pitched roof is asymmetrical, tapering more sharply at one end than the other, and the triangular window includes designs from the original cathedral.

Inside, the cathedral feels light and airy with pleasing acoustics. Holding about 700 people, it has hosted services, civic events and concerts.

How to find it
The Christchurch Transitional Anglican Cathedral is located on the southern end of Latimer Square, on the corner of Hereford Street, within walking distance of Cathedral Square and the Christchurch Bus Interchange. 

Isaac Theatre Royal’s regal restoration

New Zealand architecture firm Warren and Mahoney, together with a team of engineers and conservation experts, worked painstakingly to restore the historic 1908 Isaac Theatre Royal, which was extensively damaged in the earthquakes of 2010-11.

“Almost all elements of significant heritage value were able to be rescued,” says the firm. “[They] have been restored by skilled craftsmen to a condition vastly better than their pre-earthquake state.”

Ornate plasterwork, a painted ceiling dome in the main auditorium, royal boxes, leadlight windows, and a marble staircase are all create the atmosphere of this “grand old lady” of New Zealand theatre.

How to find it
The Isaac Theatre Royal is located on Gloucester Street next to New Regent Street and opposite Cathedral Junction shopping arcade. 

Green waves: Deloitte’s new office

The project architect on Deloitte’s new building in Christchurch, Ken Powrie of Jasmax, says the client’s vision was for a high-quality, safe work environment and a design that connects with its unique setting. 

“The building stands like a boulder in the river that runs along its eastern edge,” says Powrie. “The river itself strongly influences the design – evident in the rippling façade flowing along the northern and eastern elevations with glazed sunshades forming eddies across the surface of the building.”

Beneath the distinctive wavy green glass shapes, Bamboozle restaurant and Johnny Sausage café is on the ground floor.  

How to find it
151 Cambridge Terrace, on the Gloucester Street corner, just west of the Avon river. 

Christchurch Botanic Garden Visitors’ Centre

The new Christchurch Botanic Gardens Visitors’ Centre, by architects Patterson Associates, is light-soaked and contemporary. “The building is designed to communicate and educate the visitor in the beauty, variety and complexity of the plant world,” says Andrew Patterson.

The long, white structure is based on a traditional industrial greenhouse. “Dappled leaf shadow” elements keep staff and visitors feeling comfortable, even on the hottest days.

The visitors’ centre includes a shop, café and exhibitions depicting Maori history as well as the development of Hagley Park. 

How to find it
The Christchurch Botanic Gardens Visitors’ Centre is located in Hagley Park. Main access is from Park Terrace and Riccarton Avenue.