Ōtautahi Inside and Outside – Open Christchurch 2022

Open Christchurch — the festival of architecture and local exploration brought to you by Te Pūtahi Centre for Architecture and City Making — was on in the weekend (30 April and 1 May 2022). There were 41 local buildings to visit, as well as tours and special events. Tūranga was one of the sites for the public to visit, with librarian and engineering tours, a sketching workshop, and more. 

My Open Christchurch

My Open Christchurch weekend led me to think about interior spaces and architecture, but also nature, the environment, history, culture, and how we live:

Abberley House

Cottage, 1870s; addition, RTA Studio, 2018

A Victorian worker’s cottage meets a streamlined, contemporary lean-to in this clever response to a very narrow site. Extending from the back of the cottage and running along one boundary, the addition’s north-facing sequence of social spaces open to the garden. A polycarbonate-clad gable roof allows light to filter in but also speaks to the owner’s family history as greenhouse growers. Historical textures of brick and weatherboard sit alongside steel and polycarbonate, giving this elongated site aesthetic depth through a rich, contrasting materiality.

One of my favourite things about Open Christchurch is you get to visit places that aren't usually open to the public. These are places you might see in architectural mags, but to visit in person is so different. To see how spaces look in different light, to see how buildings relate to nature - no magazine article or website can give you that. 

Hurst Seager Red House

Architect: Samuel Hurst Seager, 1899

This small timber structure, packed with Arts & Crafts details, makes full use of its urban site, and marks the beginnings of a new architectural tradition: it was the first New Zealand colonial building to specifically reference another work of New Zealand colonial architecture. Its entrance porch, which breaks up a long windowless facade, cites the Palladian windows of Mountfort’s Christchurch Club. Once Seager’s work base, Red House is now a luxurious home – the new extension, with a deliberately minimalist exterior, is also open for exploration.

Here is a place that has history, and is also supremely modern. You may have seen it on NZ Grand Designs. It's a luxurious beauty with a sense of two timeframes in harmony. It was once the Cranmer Bridge Club in one point in its life (and has playing card wallpaper in one room). 

Info from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga

Public Trust Office - 152 Oxford Terrace

Architect: Cecil Wood, 1922-25
Restoration: ThreeSixty Architecture, 2020

This place is special to my family. My parents met here in the 60s. So to have them as tour guides was special. They pointed out aspects of the building from their memories (the vault, the door to where the typing pool worked, smoko spots) and admired the restoration.

Designed by one of the most overlooked NZ architects of the first half of the twentieth century, the Public Trust Office embodies stability, security and permanence through the simplicity of its form and dramatic scale. A rare remaining commercial Wood building, it serves as a visual bridge between two dominant styles of architecture (and cultural impulses): its stripped Classicism alludes to the austere Modernism to come. Head through the revolving wooden door into a gorgeous foyer and up to the rooftop bar for unparalleled views of the river.

Ngāi Tahu Art and Architecture Tour with Joseph Hullen (NgāiTūāhuriri/Ngāti Hinematua)

Nau mai, haere mai. On this walk join Joseph Hullen (NgāiTūāhuriri/Ngāti Hinematua), who has spent a lifetime lifetime gathering traditional kai and hearing stories about his hapū, 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 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.

We walked with Joseph Hullen on a tour that started at the Tākaro ā Poi Margaret Mahy Family Playground and around town to Victoria Square. He told us about the Matapopore Grand Narratives that underpin the Ōtautahi Christchurch rebuild. We found out about Māori ancestors, what plants grew, and how many of the developments aim to bring back nature into the city. Places of interest we stopped at:

If you ever get the opportunity, I recommend taking a tour with Joseph Hullen - his knowledge is so rich, and he has many interesting stories from past and present to share. 

Matapopore resources

Ali's blog post is a good read about an earlier tour. 

Kia ora Open Christchurch

Thanks to Dr Jessica Halliday (truly a Christchurch star) and the Open Christchurch team for putting together a weekend that enables us to explore and appreciate the place we live. 

Here are my top tips for organising your #openchch experience (get ready for 2023 - dates are 6 and 7 May):

  • Sign up to Open Christchurch's email list and follow them on social media. They do other cool events related to city-making too. 
  • 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 the weekend all about Open Christchurch, so you can maximise what you see. Seize the weekend!
  • Do yourself a plan so you can nip around on a mission. 

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.

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