Cultivating an architecture addiction: Open Christchurch 2022

I recently had the opportunity to chat with architectural historian Jessica Halliday, Director of Te Pūtahi Centre For Architecture and City Making, the organisation bringing the Open Christchurch architectural festival back to our city this weekend Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May 2022. It is not hard to be inspired by the passion Jessica holds for the architecture of our city. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and it is easy to see how this has inspired Open Christchurch, a festival aimed at 'opening up' and 'sharing' key places and spaces in our city.

I asked Jessica why she feels 'sharing' architecture is important. To her architecture isn't just a functional thing, it's also a part of our culture. It reflects our changing values and ideas as a society, our encounters with with waves of immigration and colonisation, with technological innovation, and movements within the world of art and design. Architecture is so rich, and that is why Jess loves it!.

But while Jessica feels architecture plays such a large part in our everyday lives, she's noticed that there aren't many opportunities out there to learn about it. Te Pūtahi have set up Open Christchurch to fill this gap. It's an open invitation to go see what goes in to creating great places and spaces in our city, and how they work. Jessica hopes that the festival might prompt us to explore some questions or curiosities about architecture that we never knew we had. She really wants to infect people with the her architecture addiction!.

Te Pūtahi make sure they select a range of buildings each year for the festival to ensure they showcase a range of architectural ideas, moments in architectural history, architectural styles and voices. To help us decide what to go and see they have put together a set of themed itineraries (eg Te Ao Māori, Modern Gems, Sustainable, Arts & Crafts). One of these is Jessica's 'Director's Cut', and some highlights from this list are:

Te Hohepa Kōhanga Reo

This purpose-designed building provides a physical representation of the kōhanga reo’s kaupapa. Jessica feels this building says a lot about the value of good design and what can happen when the kaupapa of a client meets the deep understanding an architect. She believes it could serve as an aspirational model for future educational projects - a way to look at how we might build spaces that nurture and support our children, youth and communities. Visiting this building will be one of those rare opportunities we have to listen and learn from both the architect and the client of a project.

Ōruapaeroa/Travis Wetlands Information Kiosk

Jessica points out that while many people visit Ōruapaeroa/Travis Wetlands for the amazing wildlife, there is an equally impressive example of architecture here in this beautiful pavilion set over water. As part of Open Christchurch you can sign up for a free tour with the architect, or just take a self-guided tour. It is a calm, peaceful work of architecture that has a sense of humour - it is designed to cage the humans, not the animals they have come to see! Jessica's tip is to visit one hour before sunset in order to capture the structure and landscape in a beautiful quality of light. 

Brooklands Lagoon Public Toilet

Jessica has a soft spot for this, the smallest and most modest structure in this years programme. It serves the most banal (yet essential) of functions, but won a national architectural award in 2015. It highlights the beauty and importance of its location. The site, by the Styx river mouth, is of importance to manu whenua, serving as a gateway and marking a former site of travel for local Māori. It also sits on the edge of the red zone, bringing with it stories, grief and echoes of the Christchurch earthquakes. Now established as a wetland containing and abundance of wildlife, Jessica is keen for us to go for the architecture and stay for the environment. This is another of the aspects Jessica loves about Open Christchurch. Yes, the festival is about the architecture, but it's also about asking and 'hey, what else is here?' - exploring the entirety of our city and its environment.

Te Hononga Christchurch Civic Building

Te Hononga is interesting for inheritance of brutalism, adaptive re-use, sustainable design and the relationship between its owning partners. Originally designed by the Ministry of Works, it was a brave move for such a big, brutalist, semi-industrial building to have been constructed in the centre of a city. The inheritance of this move was that Ngāi Tahu, Athfield Architects and the Christchurch City Council recognised an opportunity when New Zealand Post moved out in 2007. It is now a public building that has been utterly transformed, and Jessica is a big fan. Ownership of the building is shared 50:50 by Ngāi Tahu and the Council, and its architecture and artworks express the importance of the relationship between these two entities. Ngāi Tahu drove the quest for a sustainable development, and consequently Te Hononga became the first building in New Zealand to get a 6 Green Star rating across design, interior and construction.

If you visit on Sunday, the Mayor will be in her lounge and will welcome you to come up and have a look. Jessica believes Lianne Dalziel has one of best views in the city from her balcony - looking out over the Arts Centre and trees of Hagley Park to the Southern Alps.

Tūranga Central Library

We're really excited to be a part of Open Christchurch again this year. I chatted with Jessica about what she felt the significance of Tūranga was to the people of Christchurch. She pointed out that, following the experience of the earthquakes, the demolition of buildings, the uncertainty and the sense of loss in our city, the opening of Tūranga in 2018 was one of the things that said "Hey Christchurch, this is your place". When talking about the heritage that comes from the earthquake, Tūranga is probably the building that instantly comes to mind for Jessica.

As for the architecture, she feels the great success with this came from the incredible relationship formed between the Christchurch City Libraries team, the architects (Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Architectus), and manu whenua (Matapopore and Ngāi Tūāhiriri). These bodies worked well together to understand what this building needed to be - what it was, what it needed to represent, what it needed to say and what it needed to provide to people. Tūranga reinforces the theme that good architecture is all about relationships. It is a building that has been warmly embraced by the people of Christchurch, and it is a place that will continue to be important into the future. It evokes both a sense of pride and belonging for Jessica.

There are a range of ways you can learn more about the architecture of Tūranga - either before, during, or after Open Christchurch. Check these out below: 

Audio tour of Tūranga

If you're coming in to Tūranga, listen along to the audio tour by ChristchurchNZ that is now available on Listen Up Ōtautahi. This features members of the Tūranga design team (Architectus & Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects with Ngāi Tūāhuriri & Matapopore) talking about key features of the building and the importance of the partnership between Christchurch City Libraries, mana whenua and the architects. 

ChristchurchNZ and Matapopore have also put together audio tours of another 10 buildings around Christchurch, including many featured in Open Christchurch this year. So make sure to check those out as well. 

Free Behind-the-scenes tours Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May

Get a glimpse of Tūranga that people don't usually get to see. Enjoy a free behind the scenes tour with librarians who work in Tūranga.
Saturday 30 April 11am to 12noon2pm to 3pm
Sunday 1 May 11am to 12noon2pm to 3pm

Free Engineering tour Saturday 30 April 1pm to 2pm

A special tour with Jama Borzouie, Senior Structural Engineer, Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers. Tūranga, Christchurch’s new Central Library is one of the key anchor projects in the Christchurch rebuild. Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers is proud to have carried out the structural engineering on this complex and multi-award winning project.
Book now for this free tour.

Tūranga Design Studio Sunday 1 May 1pm to 4pm

Explore the architectural excellence on display in Open Christchurch 2022 in a creative workshop. Take a look at the stories and ideas behind the design of key buildings in the festival, then respond by crafting your own space or place with guidance from our creative Tūranga staff. In this workshop for ages 14 plus you will have the opportunity to:

  • Develop your own design concept
  • Transform your work into a wall decal vinyl print using Adobe Creative software.
  • Tour Tūranga's creative facilities (including the laser cutter, 3D printers and vinyl printer) to inspire your future artistic work.
  • Book now, cost $5.74, including booking fee

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