The Arts Centre of Christchurch - Chemistry Building

Christchurch Arts Centre Ea Chemistry6Resized
Christchurch Arts Centre Ea Chemistry6Resized

The Arts Centre of Christchurch represents a unique part of the cultural and architectural heritage of New Zealand. It is an iconic collection of heritage buildings occupying a city block, constructed in the distinctive Gothic Revival style of architecture established by renowned architect, Colin Harmond.

The Chemistry Building, opened in 1910, is the sixth oldest building on the site and was part of the original University of Canterbury. Student life has returned to the Chemistry Block as the Music and Classics departments move back into the building, adjacent to the south quad.

Following the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, the extensive and complex task of restoration began to this historic centre piece of Christchurch. The brief for the restoration work was ‘to implement a stronger, more robust structure – but to leave no signs of it being implemented’.

The concept for the project was to complete a sympathetic heritage refurbishment by carefully inserting new contemporary elements into the retained heritage fabric. This has created a harmonious and highly functional refurbishment which breathes new life into the facility ensuring that it is relevant for current and future use. The refurbishment has been completed with a ‘hands-on’ approach; the care and attention by the design team and contractor has ensured each bespoke detail is carefully considered and resolved to the highest quality.

The design approach agreed upon was that any new items were to be contemporary by nature, with a minimum palette, not to be confused with existing heritage. While replicating the existing fabric was required, ‘matching’ materials were designed to code and based on impact on the heritage fabric, aesthetics, acoustics, durability, compatibility, longevity, robustness, cost and overall appearance.

These buildings remain commercial and for public use. The building is now fully accessible, sensitively placed in a heritage context.

Christchurch Arts Centre Ea Chemistry2Resized