The Christchurch RSA has a long history being the very first RSA in New Zealand, formed on 22 December 1915, and as such is the parent of the RNZRSA family as it stands today.
With the former RSA clubrooms badly damaged as a result of the Canterbury Earthquakes, the new building on Armagh Street is of similar scope and bulk with a targeted completion date of Anzac Day 2015 to mark the centenary anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.
The Christchurch RSA has a long history being the very first RSA in New Zealand, formed on 22 December 1915, and as such is the parent of the RNZRSA family as it stands today. The new building is an appropriate memorial to those who gave their lives over the past decades. Key to this are the eleven blade columns serving as a reminder of the moment the WWI Armistice was signed, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and that we will never forget them or their sacrifice.
The design for the new building is conscious of the need to engage the street and create an active street frontage as part of the RSA’s desire to open up to the wider community. To achieve this, a public plaza is revealed behind the regularly spaced blade columns, forming an open colonnade to the street.
While generally used as an outdoor dining and eating area, the plaza takes a precedent from the marae atia, the open area in front of the wharenui. This space is the domain of Tumatauenga, the atua of war and people, and on a marae it is considered the appropriate place to debate issues. As a place to formally welcome visitors, the plaza serves to encourage the public into the RSA and provides a symbolic forum for public engagement with the RSA, its history and its place as one of the cornerstones of New Zealand’s post-war culture.
Stone walls on the plaza boundaries are used as a repository for memory. The east wall is a series of engraved names dedicated to those who served; the west wall provides a focus for the RSA’s daily ‘Last Post’ ceremony at sunset and embeds the previous clubroom foundation stone and various memorial plaques in the stonework. A pool encourages private remembrance and reflection.
Maori concepts of welcome and entry are visible in the raised steps leading to the courtyard, which serves the function of a marae atia, and the pool together with the inlaid stone paving refers to the braided rivers of the Canterbury Plains.
The aim of the Christchurch RSA is to be a more open and family-orientated organisation, encouraging casual visits from the public to the ground floor bar and restaurant where some of their extensive collection will be on display.
The first floor contains a function room, seminar room and offices, and these provide an area for the more traditional RSA member activities but are also available for public hire. The ground floor kitchen has the capacity to service both floors, ensuring that the RSA will be an attractive hospitality prospect in the new Christchurch.