A restoration plan to save the
earthquake-damaged Christchurch Town Hall, to be voted on by
city councillors tomorrow, has been hailed as a "masterpiece"
by the internationally acclaimed building's architect.
Sir Miles Warren says "everything must be done" to reopen the
city centre building, located on the banks of the river Avon
in downtown Christchurch.
Surrounded by empty lots where its once-proud neighbouring
buildings have been demolished - deemed too battered by the
quakes to survive - the category one listed Christchurch Town
Hall stood up in the quakes.
Media were given a guided tour of the 41-year-old building
today ahead of tomorrow's crunch council meeting to decide
Standing in the entrance foyer, apart from a slight musty
smell and ever-so-slightly sloping floor, superficial cracks
in the marble tiles and occasional concrete beam, the
building withstood the ferocity of the magnitude-6.3 jolt of
February 22, 2011 "rather well", engineers told the media
It's been closed since that fateful day when 185 people died
in the city, and its future has been a hot topic ever since.
Critics say that the Christchurch City Council's community,
recreation and culture committee's preferred option to spend
$127.5 million on a complete restoration is a waste of money.
The maximum insurance contribution is $68.9m.
Some argue that just the main 2500-seat auditorium should be
saved, while the smaller 1000-seat James Hay Theatre should
go, as its acoustics aren't up to scratch for modern music
But under the proposed plan, everything will be rebuilt,
including the auditorium, entrance foyer, Limes Room, The
Boaters and the Cambridge Room, while acoustics will be
upgraded in the James Hay Theatre.
Most of its damage was caused by liquefaction and lateral
spreading of the ground towards the Avon River.
Patrick Cantillon, project manager of the proposed rebuild,
said the building has dropped from 300mm in some areas, to
600mm in others.
"It surfed down towards the river," he said today.
"The building itself is quite robust. It's just the land
But cracks in concrete beams can be repaired with
"injections", while the floors can be taken up, braces added
to its weaker corners, and the ground strengthened below.
The council voted unanimously to repair the existing building
to 100 per cent of the new building standard in November last
Sir Miles told APNZ that he believed the building - the "most
important" he ever designed during his illustrious career -
survived the quakes "remarkably well", and thought the only
option open to councillors was a full repair job.
"It's the only building in New Zealand that has an
international reputation as a work of architecture in the
second half of the 20th century.
"You can't lop off a third of a building, and still say it's
a top class building."
He moved to silence critics of the James Hay Theatre's sound
quality, by saying it was designed for theatrical productions
and the spoken word.
The proposed acoustic upgrades would mean that music gigs
could be held there comfortably, he said.
"The Town Hall was conceived as a whole. If you take away the
James Hay, and the encircling foyers, and the Limes room and
so on, it ceases to be a functioning space."
Councillor Yani Johanson says it is important that the
historic Town Hall is retained for future generations.
Michael Aitken, council's general manager community services,
believes the plan will result in a town hall that will be
"better than the one we started with".
The city council will also consider tomorrow whether to
confirm the the development of a performing arts precinct
should include the fully-restored town hall, a new Court
Theatre, and homes for the Music Centre of Christchurch and
Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO).