Where To Find The Best Architecture in Christchurch

Exterior view of The Arts Centre.

Contemporary, Modernist, Gothic Revival, Renaissance, there’s no shortage of striking architecture to see in Christchurch.

Words by: Kelly Tapper

Photography by: Neat Places

As the new cityscape emerges, the heritage and history of Christchurch’s buildings can still be found dotted amongst those shiny new kids on the block. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite architectural haunts to go explore;        

Tūranga

60 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Tūranga is the architectural rookie in town, but boy oh boy, does this library pack a punch. The golden aluminium facade is spectacular, and if you begin to think the colour looks familiar, there's a reason; it’s based on the nearby Port Hills. The ground floor is designed to feel like a public space that seamlessly flows on from Cathedral Square outside. If you’ve never been to Tūranga, you must. There’s so much to explore, and we understand if you don’t make it past the enviable racks of magazines. 

Christchurch Town Hall

86 Kilmore Street, Christchurch Central City

Christchurch Town Hall is a Brutalist masterpiece right on our doorstep, and thanks to a hefty post-quake renovation, the building will be enjoyed for many moons to come. Gargantuan in scale and style, the iconic landmark, and world-class venue, was crafted by well-known architects Warren & Mahoney in 1972. The interior is a sight to behold; from the abundant red carpet, abstract artwork and plethora of spherical lights, every detail has been carefully considered and preserved. Tardis-like? Perhaps. Incredible nonetheless.

Ilex Cafe

Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

The Ilex’s contemporary airy white structure looks eye-catching against the backdrop of the botanical gardens. The saw-tooth roofline and floor to ceiling glass give the impression of a giant boujee greenhouse. Once inside, the sculptural panels on the walls and ceiling filter light like you might expect to see in the native bush and make it an idyllic place to while away some time with a coffee.

Isaac Theatre Royal

145 Gloucester Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

The Isaac Theatre Royal, built in 1908, is actually three times a charm for the heritage building. The original - and its predecessor - were located on the other side of the street with the current theatre being the third (and enduring) iteration. Designed in French Renaissance style, the appearance is undeniably grand but also rare, as it is the only Edwardian style theatre left in NZ. The opulent interior brimming with embellishments is typical of the era, from the marble staircase to the painted ceiling dome, both serving as a timely reminder of the heyday of theatre-going. Another tell-tale sign of its Edwardian roots is that the royal box faces the audience rather than the stage.  It would seem ol’ King Ed loved the crowd gawping at him too!            

CoCA

66 Gloucester Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

If you love minimalism, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of Modernist architecture. Luckily in Ōtautahi, we have some fine examples, and they don’t come much better than The Centre of Contemporary Art, also known as CoCA.   Completed in 1968, we can thank Canterbury’s avant-garde architects for providing us with a quintessential example of Modernism in the middle of Gloucester Street. CoCA is an easy Modernist building to spot with its concrete-laden exterior, striking geometric shape and big ground floor glass windows. 

O.G.B

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30/28 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

You may have graced the O.G.B building more than once if you like to grab a drink in the city, but have you ever looked up and noticed the different window trims on each floor? Or those giant Tuscan columns, for that matter? It’s details like these that make the architecture unmistakably Renaissance Palazzo Revival. Designed in 1909 by Joseph Maddison, the building has had various guises over its lifetime and almost got demolished in 1991, so impress your mates with your newfound knowledge next time you grab a pint inside.

The Arts Centre

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2 Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

When it comes to architecture, The Arts Centre is a big, old, goth. Built in Gothic Revival style, this iconic collection of heritage buildings is a romantic homage to the European medieval architecture of bygone days. Take your time to admire the incredible craftsmanship and get lost in the corridors and halls (you may even find yourself at a concert or art exhibition), and afterwards, you can swing by the most beautiful shopping precincts in the country! There’s always lots to discover here. 

Mona Vale Homestead & Pantry

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40 Mona Vale Avenue, Riccarton, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

It's a second mention for Architect Joseph Maddison on this list (he must have been busy!). At the end of  the 19th Century, Maddison designed the stately homestead, Mona Vale known then as Karewa. Featuring a steeply pitched roof, leadlight windows, and a half-timbered upstairs the building is certainly a nod to Old English Revival style that was popular at the end of the Victorian era. The expansive property sits in beautifully landscaped gardens with charming bridges and glasshouses, creating an idyllic aspect on the Avon River. 

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Canterbury Museum

Dinosaur skull on display at Canterbury Museum in downtown Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

Home to a mammoth 2.3 million-object collection, regularly changing special exhibitions, children’s area Discovery, a top floor café with garden views and a quality store, there is always something new to discover at Canterbury Museum.

Greystone Wines

Dining table with green leather chairs at Greystone Wines, North Canterbury.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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A day exploring the magic being made by Greystone Wines ibn Waipara is a day well spent.

Punky Brewster

Looking into the bar from the outside doors.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

Housed in what is, quite literally, a garage in the back streets of Riccarton, Punky Brewster is an unexpected find in an otherwise nondescript part of town.

Addington Coffee Co-op

View of big table of customers at Addington Coffee Co-op in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Addington Coffee Co-op is, simply put, a true Christchurch institution with laid-back vibes and house-roasted coffee.