Our City, Christchurch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Our City O-Tautahi
Our City O-Tautahi, Christchurch, NZ.jpg
Our City in 2007
Former names Civic offices
General information
Type Former civic offices
Location Christchurch Central City
Address 159 Oxford Terrace
Town or city Christchurch
Country New Zealand
Coordinates 43°31′51″S 172°38′01″E / 43.5308°S 172.6336°E / -43.5308; 172.6336
Construction started 1886
Inaugurated 24 March 1887
Client Christchurch City Council
Technical details
Floor count two
Design and construction
Architect Samuel Hurst Seager
Reference No. 1844
References
"Our City". Register of Historic Places. New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Retrieved 29 April 2011. 

Our City, or more formally Our City O-Tautahi, is on the corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace in the Christchurch Central City. It is a Category I heritage building registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.[1] From 1887–1924 it was used by Christchurch City Council as their second civic offices, providing room for meetings of the council and for housing staff, before they moved to the Civic. It was then used for many decades by the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce and served as the main tourist information. These days it is an exhibition and events centre.

History[edit]

The Christchurch Land Office (foreground) in 1860

Civic offices[edit]

The Christchurch Municipal Council first met in 1862. Later that year, it became the Christchurch City Council. The council used Christchurch's first public building, the Christchurch Land Office, as their meeting venue and for housing council employees. The Land Office was located on Oxford Terrace on the banks of the Avon River, just north of where the Worcester Street bridge crossed the river. Built in 1851, the building had various public uses.[2] The land is a formal nature reserve (Reserve 10).[3]

In 1879, the council administration had run out of room in the Land Office, and a competition for new civic offices and a town hall (i.e. a venue for large gatherings) for what is now known as Victoria Square was announced. After all the competition entries proved too expensive, the project was abandoned.[3]

Civic offices in 1890

Another competition was called for in 1885, this time for just civic offices (i.e. for a council meeting venue and for staff), and on the same site as the Land Office.[2] Controversy erupted when the competition was won by Samuel Hurst Seager; he was young and relatively inexperienced, and his design in Queen Anne style was an architectural type unfamiliar to New Zealand.[1] Construction began in 1886, but the controversy continued when councillor Samuel Paull Andrews claimed the building was structurally unsound. Benjamin Mountfort and John Whitelaw, both architects, and Edward Dobson, an engineer, reviewed the design and the building and found everything to be safe. The only suggestion that they did make was to strengthen the roof in a different, more costly way than designed by Seager.[1] The building was completed on 24 March 1887 and council met for the first time in their new premises on 4 April 1887.[2] The south façade of the building has two terracotta sculptures by George Frampton that represent 'Industry' and 'Concord'.[1]

In 1919, Council concluded that their premises were once again too cramped and started looking for an alternative. A bill was put to Parliament, seeking permission to extend the building within the reserve land, but public opposition was too strong and the proposal was dropped.[4] Instead, Council purchased the burned out shell of the northern half of the Agricultural and Industrial Hall in 1920. Construction started in 1922, and the new offices, now known as the Civic, opened on 1 September 1924.[4] In 2010, council moved into their fifth civic office; to date, the Queen Anne design is the only purpose built civic offices in Christchurch.[2]

Other uses[edit]

'Industry' sculpture by George Frampton
'Concord' sculpture by George Frampton

Parliament passed a Christchurch Municipal Offices Leasing Act in 1922, which allowed council to lease the building that was situated on Reserve 10. The Canterbury Chamber of Commerce took the lease and held it until 1987. Part of the building was subleased to the Canterbury Promotion Council, later known as Christchurch and Canterbury Marketing, and they were in the building until October 2000.[3] Part of their function was to provide the main tourist information centre for Christchurch.

The building was taken over again by the council and opened as an exhibition, event and meeting space for the community in July 2002, branded as Our City O-Tautahi.[3][5] It is one of Christchurch's major tourist attractions.[6]

Our City with heavy bracing following the 2010 Canterbury earthquake in March 2011

Earthquake damage[edit]

Our City was damaged in the 2010 Canterbury earthquake and was closed, with heavy bracing installed around the building.[7] The building is insured for NZ$5.8m, but repair options are in excess of that. One of the options has been estimated at NZ$10.5m.[8]

Heritage listing[edit]

On 2 April 1985, the building was registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category I historic place, with the registration number being 1844. It is a rare example of the Queen Anne style, and at the time was a notable departure from the prevailing Gothic architecture. It was the first major commission for Seager and started his career. The building is a feature in its part of the city.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Our City". Register of Historic Places. New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Retrieved 22 April 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Remembering our former homes as we move to the Council's new Home on Hereford". Christchurch City Council. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "History". Christchurch City Council. Retrieved 23 April 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Christchurch City Council : Civic Offices" (PDF). Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Our City O-Tautahi". Christchurch City Council. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Our City O-Tautahi". Cultural Precinct. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  7. ^ "Staff at Christchurch City Council – Earthquake Update (Updated 14 September 2010)". Christchurch City Council. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  8. ^ Cairns, Lois (3 April 2013). "Council quake study results due". The Press (Christchurch). p. A5. Retrieved 7 April 2013.