Government Life Building

The Government Life Building in Cathedral Square was opened 55 years ago on the 17th July 1964. It replaced an older Government Life Insurance Building and the Embassy Theatre (formerly the Grand Theatre).

Central city and Port Hills with snow, 24 May 1988. Christchurch Star Archive, CCL-StarP-02818A. View of the central city looking south towards the MFL and Government Life buildings and over to snow on the Sugarloaf and the Port Hills. The temperature gauge on the Government Life building reads 0 degrees Celsius.
Concept drawing of Government Life building, 10 May 1961. Christchurch Star Archive, CCL-StarP-03150A. Concept drawing overlayed onto a photograph of the site in Cathedral Square.
Cathedral Square, Christchurch, ca. 1920. CCL-PhotoCD02-IMG0001. The busy Cathedral Square scene shows the Government Life Insurance Building, the Grand Theatre, the Crystal Palace Theatre, the Reuters Telegram Company Building and the Dominion Building.
Government Life Building East & South Elevation, 21 November 1960. CCCPlans Government-Life-11-1.

The building was considered to be Christchurch's first glass skyscraper, and was criticised for not fitting in with the tone of the Square. Despite this, it actually was the first of the glass filled building developments that replaced older buildings around Cathedral Square that eventually included the BNZ building and the Colonial Building.

Construction of the Government Life Building, 14 November 1962. Christchurch Star Archive, CCL-StarP-03146A. View from the east side of Cathedral Square looking towards the construction site of the Government Life Building.

The rooftop digital clock and temperature reading became a familiar and relied upon part of the Square. This was turned on with the push of a button on the opening day.

Opening of the Government Life Building, 17 July 1964. Christchurch Star Archive, CCL-StarP-03147A. Government Life Insurance Office minister, John Rae, pressing a button inside the Government Life Building that officially starts the time and temperature clock on the top of the building.
Government Life building clock
Government Life building clock, 18 July 1964. Christchurch Star Archive, CCL-StarP-03149A. View of the digital clock on top of the Government Life building in Cathedral Square, taken from the roof of the Christchurch Star building on Kilmore Street.
Cathedral Square, 2008. CCL-GrDo-P1140313.

The site where the Government Life Building stood is currently being redeveloped for Te Pae Christchurch, Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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