40-year homecoming as University of Canterbury returns music and classics students to Arts Centre

David and Leigh Teece, donors to the restored Old Chemistry building in the Arts Centre. The University of Canterbury is ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

David and Leigh Teece, donors to the restored Old Chemistry building in the Arts Centre. The University of Canterbury is moving back into the city centre for the first time in more than 40 years.

University students are studying in central Christchurch for the first time in four decades. 

The vision for a music school at the Arts Centre courted controversy eight years ago, but has been brought to life as University of Canterbury students move back to the institution's historic home.

Music and classics students have already transferred to the old four-storey chemistry building ahead of its official reopening on Wednesday night.

The recital room of the new classics and music building can accommodate 70 people.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

The recital room of the new classics and music building can accommodate 70 people.

The university was based at the centre for 100 years until the mid-1970s, when it moved to its Ilam campus.

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Its original plans to establish a $24 million, 16-metre high Arts Centre music school became embroiled in a bitter High Court battle with the Save Our Arts Centre society in 2010.

Deputy pro-vice chancellor College of Arts Paul Millar in the building's attic level seminar room. The space, which will ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Deputy pro-vice chancellor College of Arts Paul Millar in the building's attic level seminar room. The space, which will be used for teaching, incorporates the original 1910 brickwork.

The society successfully argued the area's heritage values were at risk and independent commissioners denied the university resource consent.

The university later rejected a proposal to develop the school in the old The Press building and returned to Ilam.

Former Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker, who argued in favour of the university's return to Hereford St, was delighted.

"Anything that brings more young energy into the city, young creative people, is part of what makes a city function," he said.

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"I'm not as connected to all these things as I used to be, but just as a citizen I'm pleased to see it finally happen."

Up to 400 students will use the new campus, the university's first base outside Ilam since the 1970s.

The University of Canterbury experience will more closely mirror Victoria and Auckland universities, which have multiple city campuses, and will allow students better access to Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Art Gallery and the Christchurch symphony and youth orchestras.

In a blog post, the university said the old chemistry building had been "transformed into a purpose-built space". 

It features music practice suites, a recital space, a small lecture theatre and library, offices for classics and music staff, student workstations and a social area.

Some classes and music recitals are already running in the new space, and weekly composition workshops and new music concerts are held each Monday, which are free to attend. Friday lunchtime concerts will start soon.

The Arts Centre campus also features the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, home to the James Logie Collection.

Comprising more than 370 artefacts from the Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern cultures, the collection's move away from Ilam will mean better access for the viewing public.

 - Stuff

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