Favourite sights / Local sites – Open Christchurch 2021

Open Christchurch is over for 2021, and it was BRILLIANT. Run by Te Pūtahi Centre for Architecture and City Making, Open Christchurch was on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 May and people had the chance to explore 46 local buildings. Tūranga was one of the sites for the public to visit, with librarian tours, engineering tours, and a kids' workshop cardboard city building.

My Open Christchurch

I popped into 6 places on my Open Christchurch jaunt this weekend. Two of my stops were no photo zones (v. cool homes Madras Street townhouses and Chen Anselmi units), but here are the four others I visited, and some highlights. Thanks to the Open Christchurch team for a stellar weekend of appreciating architecture and visiting special spaces.
Open Christchurch 2022 is scheduled for 30 April and 1 May.

My top tips for organising your #openchch:

  • Get well acquainted with all the places and events as soon as the programme comes out.
  • Book quickly for the places you want to visit that require booking.
  • Make yourself a wee plan for the weekend so you can nip around the place and make the most of your architectural exploring. Seize the day!

Oxford Terrace Baptist Church

First stop and it's so nice to be welcomed into people's spaces with aroha and joy. The organ is playing at Oxford Terrace Baptist Church. My overall impression is of a happy calm place, with a sense of the past and a beautiful, open view out into the community.
Recently the pillars out front were in the news as a 35 million-year-old turtle fossil was discovered in one.
Tip: there's a neat cafe in the church called Pillars, it's open 7 days so you can appreciate this lovely place while having some yummy kai and a hot drink  (check out their Facebook page for details).

ARCHITECT: Andrew Barrie Lab, 2017
Andrew Barrie Lab info on Oxford Terrace Baptist Church

The church as a village is the driving concept behind this complex yet welcoming building, which houses offices, a cafe,a public venue for hire and spaces for music and worship. A controlled palette of colours and materials runs through the structure, tying these elements together and creating a calm, refined atmosphere.  Bare concrete block, warm timber and polished concrete floors provide contrast and richness to the exemplary finishing and details of a beautifully constructed building. Open Christchurch.

Peterborough Housing Co-Op

A chance to find out about a mode of living as much as architecture - or how the two work together. Peterborough Housing Co-Op is an urban community with a difference.

Frank Film has filmed a lovely story about one of the resident whānau.


Visit Peterborough Housing Co-Op's website.

ARCHITECT: Craig South, 2020
South Architects

The village meets the inner city in this housing cooperative, which has been designed to create community. The original co-op was damaged in the earthquakes and the new iteration is building back better, walking the fine balance between public and private needs. Fourteen units are clustered around a shared green space or courtyard; each unit graduates from private to public space, with the kitchen and front garden serving as a threshold between the two. A common house at one end of the site and a shared laundry at the other increase chances of interaction. Open Christchurch.

Nurses' Memorial Chapel

If - like me - you are an appreciator of stained glass, the Nurses' Memorial Chapel is a must-see. The stained glass windows, many designed by artist Veronica Whall, are gobsmackingly stunning. The Chapel is open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm if you want to visit. Find out more at The Nurses' Memorial Chapel website.

ARCHITECT: Collins and Harman, 1927
New Zealand’s first purpose-built hospital chapel is of vital cultural importance: it is the only memorial chapel celebrating nurses who died in any conflict and the 1918 Influenza epidemic. Many stories and treasures lie within, displayed in Arts & Crafts details and works of craftsmanship. Highlights include stained-glass windows by renowned artist Veronica Whall, and the elaborately carved altar and oak panel by Frederick Gurnsey and Jake Vivian. A riot of colour by way of the aisle carpet, running straight up the middle, adds to the visual delight. Open Christchurch.

The Angel of Hope, and The Angel of Charity and A Waif

These two windows - and especially the brightly coloured angel wings - caught my eye. Information from the Chapel website is that "The Angel of Hope" window (the one at left, red wings) was made in the memory of pioneer nurses and was probably artist Veronica Whall's last window. The window was dedicated by Bishop Warren on 2nd August 1953. It was designed to match the Ewart memorial window "The Angel of Charity and A Waif" (at right, purple wings) which commemorates Mary Ewart who was matron from 1898 to 1908. She was the first qualified nurse to join Christchurch Hospital where she worked for 43 years, and died 2 July 1930. Nurses who had trained under her donated this memorial window and it was dedicated by Bishop West Watson 16 April 1933.

Poppy's Remembrance

This floral window commemorates Poppy Blathwayt who was home sister at the nurses' hostel. It was designed by Auckland designer Suzanne Johnson, constructed by her partner Ben Hanly, and dedicated on 26 March 2000.

St Michael and All Angels

This one has been on my to-do list for a long time. The late Victorian-Gothic church has a dark timber interior, made of matai (native black pine). There are also more stained glass windows for those of us who can't resist a bit of visual splendour.

ARCHITECT: William Fitzjohn Crisp, Frederick Strouts, 1872
The first church to be built on the plains by the Anglican settlers, St Michael and All Angels’ congregation soon outgrew the original building and was replaced by Crisp’s fashionable Gothic Revival structure – the preferred ecclesiastical style of the time. Crisp soon fell out with the clients and Strouts, the designer for the who’s who of Christchurch, picked up the slack. The resulting combination of dark wood and English stained-glass windows makes for a rich and contemplative atmosphere. Open Christchurch.

More about Open Christchurch

Run by Te Pūtahi Centre for Architecture and City Making, Open Christchurch celebrates Christchurch’s most exceptional architecture by opening over 40 buildings to the public for free on 15 & 16 May. It offers people the opportunity to connect with their city by discovering new spaces or getting up close to the buildings they love.

In the news

Our Lady of the Ski Jump James Dann on his visit to Our Lady of Victories in Sockburn.


On our Blog

Architecture resources

Ahead of Open Christchurch, we've freshened up our page highlighting all things architecture.