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Open Christchurch is Back!


Te Pūtahi releases programme for the festival of architectural excellence, Open Christchurch 2023

Open Christchurch 2023 celebrates some of Christchurch’s best architecture and special spaces that contribute to our city’s unique sense of place. This year’s festival focuses on the renowned partnership of Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney and the rise of the Christchurch Modern style, the city’s coastal identity, and the journey of educational architecture in Christchurch, spanning 159 years in the programme.

This year’s special architectural experiences include behind-the-fences tours of the Canterbury Provincial Council Chambers, which have been inaccessible to the public since earthquakes; a nosey through a private, multi-generational contemporary residence that looks like an elongated milking shed but contains a crafted treasure within, and an evening at Te Puna Wānaka (Ara | Te Pūkenga) exploring Māori architecture and design in Ōtautahi.

People are invited to explore the city in different ways, whether that be discovering the estuary-inspired rebuild of the Mt Pleasant Community Centre with its architect Chris Moller (formerly of Grand Designs), taking a guided walk through the University of Canterbury to explore its journey of becoming a te Tiriti based campus with Corban Te Aika (Ngāi Tahu) or joining a tour of the Christchurch Town Hall that asks ‘How accessible is the city’s “living room?”.

These are just some of the highlights to appear in the annual one-weekend-only festival of architectural excellence, presented by Te Pūtahi – Centre for Architecture & City-Making.

Open Christchurch begins with a special evening programme of two panel discussions at Te Puna Wānaka on Friday 5 May that consider the drivers and opportunities of Māori architectural design past and present, and continues with its full programme on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 May. Fifty-two buildings of different ages, styles and uses will be open for the public to experience for free, apart from a handful of private residences that require a small booking fee.

Seven buildings, including three private residences, capture the development of Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney’s significant partnership, while a Saturday evening programme, ‘Christchurch has style: the legacy of Sir Miles Warren & Maurice Mahoney’, features never-before-seen footage of the pair and a series of quick-fire talks from owners and architects who have restored, strengthened and cared for works of architecture that are part of this legendary partnership’s legacy. The Macmillan Brown Library will be displaying Warren & Mahoney’s architectural drawings as part of its bookable behind-the-scenes tour, while Objectspace is mounting an exhibition of Warren’s watercolours (curated by John Walsh),  in the flat he designed at 65 Cambridge Terrace. People can also sign up for a Christchurch City Libraries sketch tour of Warren & Mahoney buildings.

Four guided walks explore different ways of seeing our city, from a youth-based perspective through to how mana whenua values have been woven into the rebuild. Audio-described tours explore College House and Tūranga for those who are blind and low-vision. In an effort to open the city to more people during Open Christchurch, Te Pūtahi has worked with partners in the disability sector and appointed an Accessibility Advisor. The 2023 programme features activities such as a guided walk through three New Brighton buildings, as well as improved accessibility information for all 52 buildings.

Some old favourites return to the 2023 programme, such as the behind-the-hoardings tours at Christ Church Cathedral and behind-closed-doors access to the Observatory Hotel at the Arts Centre. Over 30 activities, such as talks, tours, exhibitions and workshops, provide additional ways to learn about the city’s architecture.

Other highlights include culturally, historically and architecturally important buildings that are not generally open for free to the public, such as the sustainable and educational Kahukura (Ara),  the collection of heritage buildings at Christ’s College, and last year’s popular industrial treasure Wood’s Mill. Children’s architecture-themed workshops at the Arts Centre return; as do expert tours of buildings by the architects and engineers behind their design. The Tongan Church Fonua ‘o e maná with Michael O’Sullivan, Te Ora Hou with Amiria Kiddell and St Andrew’s Centennial Chapel with Jane Rooney are just some of the inclusions.

Te Pūtahi director Jessica Halliday says, “The expanded Open Christchurch programme is our response to people’s passion for the city’s architecture. Thanks to the generosity of our building partners Open Christchurch offers something for everyone – whether you have a passion for modernism, want to explore exemplar medium density housing or find out more about the history and future of modern Māori architecture. And if you’re into creative responses to architecture you can find The White Room Creative Space’s studio on wheels, join the Library’s sketch tour or Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre’s children’s workshops.”

Event organisers encourage residents and visitors to study the programme and website to create their own itinerary of highlights so that they can discover the city in new ways.

Buildings are open at different times across the weekend, bookable activities are timetabled and a handful of buildings require advance bookings.

Open Christchurch celebrates our special places and local architecture, and the story of the city over time.

Visit openchch.nz for bookings, building-specific accessibility and more information.


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