Town Hall contract signed

1436384954063The Christchurch Town Hall has been largely stripped back to its concrete frame, but the bones of the place still evoke strong memories.

Those special memories were shared yesterday as the contract was signed to restore the earthquake-damaged building over the next three years: designs sketched on a kitchen table, children graduating and people queuing to visit on opening day.

The Christchurch Town Hall will be restored and strengthened over the next three years at a cost of $127.5 million. The main auditorium has been partially stripped out in preparation for the revamp.

The contract was signed in the heritage building’s foyer with restoration and strengthening work costing $127.5 million, largely funded by $68.9 million in insurance money.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel remembered visiting the building on opening day in 1972.

“I remember thinking this [foyer space] was so big,” she said.

“The queue went for miles. We all came in and we marveled at this incredible building.

“This place has been where we come together as a city to celebrate. This adds up financially and emotionally for the benefit of the city as a whole. Roll on 2018 and the opening day.”

Original architect Sir Miles Warren remembered designing the building on his kitchen table in Church Bay over the Christmas holidays in 1965.

“That was the beginning of a wonderful building process,” he said.

“It really was the most important commission that Warren and Mahoney ever received in competition. We became a national practice rather than just Christchurch architects in the process.”

Council rebuild manager David Adamson thought of family moments.

“All my children graduated through this place,” he said.

Regional Manager Steve Taw had memories of soft rock.

“I remember the last time I came here was for a concert. It was George Thorogood and the Destroyers.”

Council chief executive Karleen Edwards said the restoration would improve the Town Hall.

“We all have memories of coming here. We all have a special memory about this place. The city has missed having the Town Hall.

“There is a real opportunity to make this place better than it was.”

The building has been largely stripped back in preparation for the restoration. Carpets have been taken up, the floor of the auditorium has been stripped out and fixtures have been removed and stored. The process has revealed the full extent of how much the floor of the main auditorium warped in the Canterbury earthquakes.

The concrete floor of the auditorium bulges like the top of a sphere. The difference in height between the centre of the bulge and the edge of the floor is about 50 centimeters. Despite this, the walls and structure of the building have remained relatively intact.

The ground beneath the Town Hall will be fixed with more than 1000 jet grout piles, creating an eight-metre deep concrete grid beneath the building. A new concrete slab for the whole Town Hall complex will be poured on top of the new piles.

The Limes Room, which has moved towards the Avon River and risen at one end, will be suspended on scaffolding while new columns are built underneath to make it level again.


  • Stacy Squires
  • The Press

Market Square open for Christmas

The Christchurch Arts Centre’s Market Square could reopen as early as this summer, with the entire $290 million restoration project scheduled for completion by 2019.

Yesterday, new centre director Andre Lovatt outlined a preliminary restoration timeline for the historic buildings during a tour of the site with The Press.

He said stall holders could return to Market Square, off Worcester Blvd, for the summer.

Lovatt started as chief executive two weeks ago after his appointment by the Arts Centre Trust board in June. He replaces Ken Franklin, who left in May.

Lovatt, 37, said safe public access to the Arts Centre would be phased in as restoration work was carried out. The first area of focus was the northeast corner, where he wanted to see public access to part of Market Square by December.

He said the return of stall holders was one option. Others were public art or a performance base.

‘‘Whether or not [stall holders] come back is the biggest consideration. Some have just moved on,’’ he said. ‘‘We will take registrations of interest.’’

The first historic building to reopen would be the registry building, on the corner of Worcester Blvd and Montreal St, scheduled for mid-2013. The Great Hall would be ready in two years.

The rest was ‘‘in the zone of three to 31⁄2 years’’, Lovatt said.

Reinsurance negotiated after the September 2010 earthquake would cover most of the restoration project.

The rest of the funding came from donors and a $5m contribution from the Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Buildings Fund, he said.

The Arts Centre has been cordoned off since the February 2011 quake, with significant temporary stabilisation undertaken.

Of the 23 buildings on the site, only one has been demolished. This was a modern addition west of Market Square that housed woodwork studios and Fudge Cottage.

Its removal has exposed the old Christchurch Boys’ High School swimming pool, built in 1881, and veranda that led to the old gymnasium (Academy Cinema), built in 1908.

While the centre wanted to make income ‘‘as soon as possible’’, Lovatt said, the focus now was on the restoration, not tenancies.

Lovatt, who completed his civil engineering training at the University of Canterbury, has signed a five-year contract with the Arts Centre Trust.

Trust chairwoman Jen Crawford said the trust shared Lovatt’s vision.

‘‘We’re absolutely committed to restoring the Arts Centre as far as we are able,’’ she said.


  • The Press
  • Joelle Dally
  • Photo: Greg O’Beirne, Wikipedia
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