Restoration of the Christchurch Arts Centre well underway

It was inspiring to be shown some of the major restoration and rebuilding work underway at the Christchurch Arts Centre recently. With 22 of 23 Arts Centre buildings damaged by the earthquakes, this is one of the largest heritage restoration projects in the world.

More than 120 staff are working on the $290 million project. There is a huge amount of design skill, engineering know-how, craft, and artisanship being put into the project which is planned for completion in 2019.

The Arts Centre Trust is using the rebuild and restoration to improve access and amenities in the complex. An innovative $500,000 heat exchange and heat pump system is being installed to use the temperature difference between groundwater and air temperature to heat all 23 buildings. Two well heads are sited in the South Quadrangle with the heating plant and equipment out of sight in the basement area.

Arts Centre chief executive, Andre Lovatt, says the heat exchange system will enable the buildings to be heated properly for the first time in their 130-year life without carbon emissions or any extensive electricity demand. I once worked in an office on the south side of the Chemistry Building. It was frigid in winter and long johns and a woolly hat were standard attire. The new energy and heating system is a fantastic way to future proof these magnificent stone and brick buildings and make them more comfortable and useable.

The Arts Centre Trust is also making buildings such as the Chemistry Building, wheelchair accessible by installing a lift and widening entrances so they are open to everyone.

We’ve lost more than 250 significant heritage buildings in central Christchurch thanks, in part, to CERA’s aggressive demolition strategy. The Arts Centre’s contribution to a sense of place and character is even more important because so much has been lost.

The steady progress on the restoration of the Arts Centre shows what could be achieved with Christ Church Cathedral if the Anglican Church had a similar vision and purpose and recognised the Cathedral’s value to the city.—restore.html


South Quadrangle and former site of Annie’s Winebar


Arts Centre chief executive. Andre Lovatt and Arts Centre Trust chair, Jen Crawford outside the Clocktower entrance.


Bracing on the Engineering Building to stabilise it until it is repaired.


In the Chemistry and Clock Tower College Hall buildings internal walls which created a rabbit warren of offices and linings have been removed to open up the space and expose the brickwork.


Clocktower Building