The Christchurch Town Hall

The Christchurch Town Hall has been a significant building on the Christchurch landscape since it opened on 30 September 1972. The building is currently closed because of damage from land movement and liquefaction caused by the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Christchurch Town Hall view
Christchurch Town Hall, September 2010. Flickr CCL-CWF10-P1100071

Official opening

The Christchurch Town Hall was officially opened on 30 September 1972 by His Excellency The Governor General, Sir Denis Blundell, GCMG, KBE. Initially a joint project by the six former metropolitan territorial local authorities, i.e. the former Christchurch City Council, Paparua and Heathcote County Councils, Riccarton and Lyttelton Borough Councils, and Waimairi District Council, the Christchurch Town Hall is now the responsibility of the Christchurch City Council.

The Town Hall complex is situated on the bank of the River Avon and overlooks Victoria Square. It contains three major elements arranged together as one building.

Auditorium

The Auditorium was conceived primarily as a symphony concert hall, but was designed to be suitable for a great variety of public assembly purposes, including a lyric theatre mode. It seats an audience of 2,354, an orchestra of 120, and a choir of 400. The Auditorium is elliptical in plan with two levels of tiered seating surrounding the level central floor and the orchestral stage. Encircling this hall are two levels of promenade foyers and backstage accommodation. The installation of a pipe organ in the Auditorium was completed in May 1997.

James Hay Theatre

The James Hay Theatre was designed as a traditional drama theatre and concert chamber for similar musical performances. It holds an audience of 1,006. The theatre has a fan-shaped auditorium with one upper gallery, both leading from a common foyer which embraces the outer arch of the fan at the back of the tiered seating, and is quite open to, and forms an extension of, the auditorium space.

Foyer, restaurant, convention and function rooms

The foyer, restaurant, convention and function rooms provide facilities for public dining, private and civic receptions, conventions, exhibitions and meetings.

Christchurch Town Hall view
Christchurch town hall interior, September 2010. Flickr CCL-CWF10-P1100066

Between the Auditorium and the theatre, a common entrance foyer with mezzanine refreshment bars leads directly to the Boaters Restaurant which projects over the edge of the river bank.

The upper floor contains a 500 seat banquet hall known as the Limes Room (464 m²). The Conference Room (232 m²) is divisible into two parts. Adjacent is the Cambridge Room (232 m²). It is the upper floor of an extension completed in 1976 which includes catering, office accommodation and utility rooms on the ground floor.

Other features

The cost of the total project, as extended, with furnishings and equipment, was approximately $4 million. $500,000 was raised by voluntary subscription through Town Hall Promotion Inc. The balance was found by constituent local authorities, mostly from loans.

The Ferrier Fountain in front of Boaters Restaurant was donated by Mr and Mrs Jack Ferrier to mark the opening of the Town Hall.

The architects were Warren and Mahoney of Christchurch, and the main contractor C. S. Luney.

Christchurch Town Hall
Christchurch Town Hall. September 2010. Flickr CCL-CWF10-P1100058

Since its opening, the Town Hall has hosted many civic functions, local cultural and commercial events, shows, and concerts. It was home to the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, the Christchurch City Choir and several amateur theatrical groups.

Recent history

The Town Hall’s function rooms were augmented in 1997 by the opening of the Christchurch Convention Centre, which was built to adjoin the Town Hall via a glass flyover bridge over Kilmore Street. The Convention Centre was demolished in April 2012 as a result of earthquake damage.

Christchurch Convention Centre, looking to Crowne Plaza
Christchurch Convention Centre Wednesday 2 May 2012. Flickr CCL-2012-05-02IMG_2167

The Town Hall itself is currently closed due to significant damage caused by the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The damage was caused by liquefaction in the substrate under the building and the related lateral spreading of the ground towards the Avon River.

Repair, restoration and extension

On the 29th August 2013 the Christchurch City Council voted to fully restore the Town Hall as part of the development of a new Performing Arts Precinct for Christchurch. All the options included the partial or entire retention of the Town Hall. Under the option chosen, the Auditorium, entrance foyer, James Hay Theatre and the Limes Room would be retained. The Boaters Restaurant and the Cambridge Room would be rebuilt.

The Christchurch City Council began an expression of interest (EOI) process for contractors interested in tendering for the Town Hall conservation project on September 2014 and the tender process closed in February 2015.

On 11 June 2015, Christchurch City Council was "asked to confirm the August 2013 decision to spend $127.5 million on fully repairing and restoring the 1972 heritage-listed Christchurch Town Hall, which has been closed since it was damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes." The restoration was approved as reported by Lois Cairns and Tina Law reported in The Press: Christchurch Town Hall $127.5m restoration approved.

Foundation work repairs on the town hall complex began in November 2015.

In July 2017 approval was given for the works to be extended to include a new three-storey Warren and Mahoney-designed building as a rehearsal and office space for the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, as well as offices for Vbase, the venue management company that operates the Town Hall, and public toilets. 

Restoration works on the Town Hall are now expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2018, with the CSO addition completed by early 2019. The complex is expected to be opened to the public in March 2019.

See the Town Hall project timeline.

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Related pages

Online resources

Christchurch Town Hall
Our images of the Town Hall on Flickr.
Christchurch Town Hall
Images on Kete Christchurch.
Christchurch Town Hall
A Digital NZ set of images of the Town Hall.
Christchurch Town Hall
Wikipedia page about the Town Hall. Includes links and Wikimedia Commons media.
Christchurch Town Hall
Warren and Mahoney portfolio page.
Christchurch Town Hall
Marshall Day Acoustics about the acoustics of the Town Hall auditorium.
Public Art in Central Christchurch
PDF publication on the Christchurch Art Gallery website. Contains information on the Ferrier Fountain and interior Town Hall artworks including Rainbow Pieces and the Women’s Suffrage Commemorative Wall Hanging.
Christchurch Town Hall for Performing Arts and the Performing Arts Precinct
Details of the conservation project from the Christchurch City Council. Includes history and background and latest updates.

Source

This was originally derived from the Christchurch City Council handbook of 1998.

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