Behind closed doors, Open Christchurch – Have a look inside (and outside) at some of Christchurch’s most interesting buildings

If, like me, you are curious about Christchurch architecture and buildings, Open Christchurch is going to be a treat. It runs from Sunday 30 June to Saturday 7 September, with one event per week over winter. It's bought to you by Te Pūtahi: Christchurch Centre for architecture and city-making.

The first event is on this Sunday 30 June 10am to 4pm. The Cathedral Grammar Junior School opens its doors — and that nifty looking rooftop playground. Slide on down!

We kick off our Open Christchurch programme on Sunday 30 June when The Cathedral Grammar Junior School opens its doors...

Posted by Te Pūtahi - Christchurch centre for architecture and city-making on Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Te Pūtahi Director Dr Jessica Halliday says:

“We’re thrilled to provide people with the opportunity to explore the city through direct experience of buildings that the public don’t regularly have easy access to. Our inner city schools are often overlooked as a key part of the central city’s life and these three schools have very different works of architecture to enjoy and encounter.
The walks are conceived as a way to walk through central Christchurch, connecting different parts of the city via different themes and helping people creating new mental maps of the city based on the buildings that are here - both old and new.”

Here's the full programme:

Open Buildings

These events are free and no bookings are required.

Sunday 30 June 10am to 4pm: Cathedral Grammar Junior School

2 Chester Street West.

Designed by Tezuka Architects (Japan) and Andrew Barrie Lab (Auckland), The Cathedral Grammar Junior School is built at a scale that children can appreciate. With classrooms in an quadrangle enclosing a central courtyard, and a slide connecting the rooftop playground to the courtyard, the school was designed to create a ‘home away from home’ for the students.

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Sunday 4 August 10am to 4pm: Christ's College Memorial Dining Hall

Rolleston Avenue.

Designed by Cecil Wood, this stunning heritage building is steeped in tradition – complete with intricate wood panelling, long shared tables and a dramatic timber roof supported on hammerbeam trusses. 

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Saturday 7 September 10am to 4pm:  Ao Tawhiti

5 Mollett Street.

Designed by Stephenson & Turner,  Ao Tawhiti is Christchurch’s only vertical school. With a top floor gymnasium, and classrooms, studios, labs and socials spaces spread over its four storeys, this metro school’s identity is perhaps best defined by what it doesn’t have on campus. There is no staffroom or library; there are no grounds. The school weaves itself into the city, which serves as its playground and as an extension of its classrooms

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Guided walks

Saturday 6 July 2pm to 3.30 pm // Innovative Engineering // Brandy Alger

Come and learn about the seismic resilience of Christchurch’s buildings in this guided walk by Brandy Alger from UC Quake Centre

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Book your ticket ($5.93)
Postponement date: Sunday 7 July, 2pm to 3.30pm.

Saturday 13 July 11am to 12.30pm // Ngāi Tahu Identity // Joseph Hullen

Nau mai, haere mai. On this walk join Joseph Hullen (NgāiTūāhuriri / Ngāti Hinematua) as he shares the values, stories and identity of Ngāi Tahu as told through the recent artworks integrated into the central city’s public spaces and buildings. From Ngā whāriki manaaki woven and placed beside the Ōtākaro to the shaping of Tūranga’s architecture to the bold kakahu (cloak) adorning the Justice & Emergency Precinct, discover the ways in which Ōtautahi reflects Ngāi Tahu identity and narratives through art, landscape and architecture.

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Book your ticket ($5.93).
Postponement date: Sunday 14 July, 11am to 12.30pm.

Saturday 20 July 1pm to 2.30pm // The Art of Architecture // Audrey Baldwin

Is architecture the mother of the arts? Join artist Audrey Baldwin on a walk that connects the central city buildings dedicated to sheltering Christchurch’s arts institutions and the city’s major cultural venues.

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Book your ticket ($5.93).
Postponement date: Sunday 21 July 1pm to 2.30pm.

Wednesday 31 July 12.30pm to 2pm // Historic Treasures // Jessica Halliday

Come and discover the historic buildings that still pepper the central city. From mid-century modern treasures to Gothic Revival beauties and buildings yet to be restored, Jessica Halliday will help you find and celebrate the heritage gems that have long been part of, and will remain part of, our city fabric.

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Book your ticket ($5.93).
Postponement date: Thursday 1 August, 12.30pm to 2pm.

Saturday 10 August 1pm to 2.30pm // Explore Downtown // Preston Hegel

There’s been a lot of construction of commercial and retail buildings in downtown Christchurch in the past 5 years. Join Preston Hegel on this walk that wanders down the laneways looking at range of examples – from hi-spec office buildings to retail hubs and mixed use developments. Learn more about why one side of the river looks utterly different to the other and why we now have all those laneways.

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Book your ticket ($5.93).
Postponement date: Sunday 11 August, 12.30pm to 2pm.

Saturday 17 August 11am to 12.30pm // The River's Public Spaces // Jim Lunday

Promenade along the Ōtākaro Avon River and glean the insights of notable urban designer Jim Lunday. From the boatsheds via the earthquake memorial and Victoria Square to Margaret Mahy Playground, explore how and why the spaces that line the Ōtākaro have been redesigned since the earthquakes. Discover why the river is so important to our city’s identity and history and why it has become a major public space.

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Book your ticket ($5.93).
Postponement date: Sunday 18 August 11am to 12.30pm.

Thursday 29 August 5pm to 7pm // Buildings with bars // Audrey Baldwin

This guided walk isn’t a pub crawl – it’s an architecture crawl looking at buildings that just happen to be home to bars and pubs. Only a pub theme could take you from the city’s oldest building, to a bus that either is or isn’t a building (???) to Christchurch’s newest laneways. We hope you’ll linger in one of these fine establishments for a brew when Audrey’s walk comes to an end.

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Book your ticket ($5.93).
Postponement date: Friday 30 August  5pm to 7pm.

Saturday 31 August 1pm to 2.30pm // Public Architecture // Erica Austin

Are we just really good at public buildings in Christchurch? We have a lot of them – and from the Gothic Revival Provincial Council Buildings to Tūranga, have a long history of investing in quality public buildings in this city. Come and discover more about what local and provincial governments have built over time and how they reflect the city’s changing values and priorities. These are your buildings – come and celebrate them with Te Pūtahi’s own Christchurch Ambassador, Erica Austin.

Book your ticket ($5.93).
Postponement date: Sunday 1 September, 1pm to 2.30pm.



There's another interesting building in town that you can visit and use every day — Tūranga. Free tours of the building, led by volunteer tour guides, leave from He Hononga | Connection, Ground Level at 11am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These tours cover all five floors of the building and are 45 minutes long.

About the building

Size: Approx 9850m2, making it the largest public library in the South Island (old central library was 7,200m2)
Site: 60 Cathedral Square - corner of Cathedral Square, Colombo Street, and Gloucester Street
Cost: $92.7 million
Find out more about the building and its design and architecture.

Artworks and Cultural Narrative

The Matapopore Trust has been a key partner in the development of our new central library since the beginning of the project. Cultural values, aspirations and narratives are woven throughout Tūranga's entire experience.

Read Matapopore's project sheet about Tūranga [PDF]

Tūranga is a name that carries with it considerable responsibility. Tūranga speaks of whakapapa across generations, connections to the north and out to Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa and the wider Pacific. Recounted in the waiata ‘E Tuku Ana’, Tūranga is celebrated in a depiction on the west-facing outer wall of the library building.

Integrating Mātauranga mana whenua

The Ngāi Tūāhuriri influence on the design and build of Tūranga is centred on the notion of mātauranga mana whenua – the body of knowledge that originates from the people of this place.

Find out more about Tūranga artworks and cultural narrative.