Christchurch architecture: Not special yet

Some Canterbury architecture awards were handed out last night and from this weekend, a buttress of architects are visiting Christchurch for the Festival of Transitional Architecture.

Coincidentally, it's a good moment for Christchurch residents to judge the architecture that's gone up since September 2010.

There aren't many new buildings and this blog won't capture them all, but it's worthwhile speaking up now to prevent (we can hope) more poor buildings in our fair city.

Architects and building owners should be publicly accountable for their work and when they get it wrong, feel the sting of public displeasure. That's all the public gets - there's no regulator for taste, no court for culture.

To be clear, I'm NOT looking at buildings that were underway before the Earth started shaking, nor am I looking at proposed buildings, repaired buildings or unfinished buildings (with one exception). I'm judging new buildings constructed atop the rubble of something the quakes wrecked.   

Photos by Stacy Squires, David Hallett, John Kirk-Anderson of Fairfax NZ


Salisbury St

This is a more rational use of the site than the previous building, but that's the end of my positive thoughts. It's a box that undoubtedly met its commercial brief and we can't blame the architect for the owner's low ambitions or the tenant's colour scheme.

Verdict: Eyesore.

Carlton Butchery

Victoria St

At first glance, it's a notched sugar cube. But after studying it on many drive-bys, I've decided it's the best example of new architecture yet seen in Christchurch. It sticks out at the moment because it has no neighbouring buildings and the promise of a revivied Knox Church across the street. Depending what else gets built at this important intersection, the Butchery could one day be seen as a worthy niche building.

Verdict: Good, more boldness please.

Westende House

Manchester and Worcester streets

Site of the namesake jewellery shop that was fatally damaged in September 2010 and the backdrop to many early-days press conferences, the new structure is a low-rise box with burnt orange detailing and a sticky-out corner on the second level.

Verdict: Dull like burnt orange.

Lifetime Financial

Montreal St and Moorhouse Ave

Does the woody design worked into the concrete make this an interesting building? It helps.  But it can't conceal what is otherwise a concrete, steel and glass box.  This sort of effort should be the bare minimum for new builds, but more should be done.

Verdict: B minus.

The Valley Inn


Solid local watering hole that retained its historic water well in the main bar. Also retained the historic wedge shape.

Verdict: Well done.


Manchester St

Having gone to the trouble of creating an all-timber frame, they've now clad the thing in wavy steel. From the outside, we can't see all that timber. But at least we've been spared that already-tedious motif -- visible strength.

Verdict: OK, I guess.

Remembering that architecture is too important to leave to architects, leave your thoughts in the comment section.

The Press