City Center, Christchurch
A good way of seeing Christchurch is to use the classic 1960's open top bus.You have a choice of a 1 hour or a 3 hour tour.The tour comes with an excellent commentary.
We found the tour quite emotional as the amount of damage and destruction was far worse than we realised.However, the New Zealand people have big plans for Christchurch and in time to come it should be a magnificent city.
Update August 2012
This beautiful building has been demolished. The Press has moved into a new building with tasteful heritage features in Gloucester Street (between Colombo and Manchester Streets).
The second photo shows the new building.
My review about the lost building and history of the paper:
The Press is Christchurch’s big newspaper. Like in all other big cities there is no competitor. If the people want to read local stories and information there is no alternative. NZ’s cities are one-paper-cities, and how ever you see it, this can be good or bad news. Bad because they would not have to care about the quality. Good because without competitor the reporters are not forced to sensationalise more stories than they already do.
I consider the quality of the Press very average, given the huge opportunities they have, thanks to an incredible lof of advertisements and space to fill. Although the chief editor writes a lot about innovation the spreading of stories over several pages – and if it only for the final ten lines – is prehistoric. Many stories are a complete waste of space because within the story the same facts are chewed three times, first in indirect speech, then in direct speech, and finally in a summary. Amateurish! And many reporters write as if they were the private secretaries of the persons they are citing.
The Press calls itself serious - contrary to British tabloids. The truth is that it is somewhere between tabloids and serious papers, with an incredible lot of rubbish blown up on the front page, just to sell more copies.
I would say, the quality and beauty of the Press building, just behind the Cathedral on the eastern side of Cathedral Square, is a lot more outstranding than the paper itself. Built in 1909, it is hailed as one of NZ’s best examples of the Perpendicular Gothic style. The features of this style is the strong vertical emphasis, and subtle changes of the window arrangements on each floor. The most stiking and distinctive feature of the corner building is its elegant tower containing a pigeon loft. The Press BTW was founded in 1861. At the time it even had to struggle against a competitor, the Lyttelton Times, founded in 1851. When the Lyttelton Times gave up in 1935 there were two morning and two evening papers in Christchurch. What a wonderful newspaper world!
You can see the spire-less Cathedral best if you walk into Gloucester Street (from Oxford Terrace), and then turn right into Colombo Street. The Red Zone fence only starts right at Cathedral Square.
You might have followed the discussions about the fate of Christ Church Cathedral as the damage it suffered in the earthquakes has been a topic worldwide. Now we know that the Anglican Diocese is going to have the symbol of the city demolished, and since yesterday (16 April 2012) we know that it will temporarily (for 20 to 50 years...) be replaced by an A-frame cardboard box at the site of the demolished St. John's Anglican Church at Latimer Square (corner of Madras & Hereford Streets). By November or December this year it should already be up and running.
Please allow me to add some texts about the fate of the Cathedral and its future.
The demolition of the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral is a hotly discussed topic in our city - although personally I think the discussion is not passionate enough. Having no sense of history and history-related culture at all, many people just accept that the city's namesake will be gone and something new that "will not kill people" standing at the same site.
If you have seen some of the uninspiring shoebox-like steel and glass designs suggested for the future CBD there will not be many reasons to visit the new CBD at all. That's perhaps why the City Council is discussing plans to turn the one-way street system into two-way streets. The thought behind it is... that people will go shopping in the CBD if they have to drive slowly (and probably get stuck) on certain roads where we now have traffic flow, like on Barbadoes Street.
I will surely not waste time in the CBD if they demolish all neo-Gothic heritage buildings and replace them by cold and modern look-alike architecture. I think the most interesting cities are those where old and new are side by side, the romantic old buildings (that kill people when they are not reinforced properly) reflecte in the glass fronts of the new ones. Just something interesting. People will surely not flock into the CBD if they are forced into traffic jams. What absurd idea!
I would rather take a ring road further outside and can go to the big shopping malls if glass and steel is the future of Christchurch's inner city including the new Cathedral. My inner city destinations would be the Botanical Garden and Hagley Park, and Riccarton Park further west.
A loud voice in the fight for saving, reinforcing and rebuilding heritage buildings is the Wizard, Christchurch's living piece of art. He is eighty years old and as loud as ever. Amazing!
If you want to sign his and a heritage group's petition for saving Christchurch's historical building, where it is still possible, you can do it here:
I read an article in The Press which says that 70 churches and Christian organisations from Canterbury (which is our region) support bishop Victoria Matthews in her decision to demolish Christ Church cathedral. They say that "God's real Church is the people, and people matter more to God than any building".
I even agree with this. But another sentence is of concern to me. It says hat a "unified perspective of those who actually lead chuches and oversee church buildings" is needed. This may well be true. To me it just explains why the congregations are getting smaller and smaller. Because those who lead the churches do not really get it what the people want and need.
Let's put my thoughts about the demolition of Christ Church Cathedral here (thoughts after reading an article in The Press on 27 March 2012):
Hidden agenda and demolition by neglect
According to CERA’s demolition manager Warwick Isaacs knocking down the Anglican Cathedral is the only viable option. He says – as does bishop Victoria Matthews - every time he comes in “it is getting worse”, and that even small aftershocks are continuing to degrade the building.
The question is: why? Because the church’s owner has done next to nothing to stabilise the building since February 2011. It is similar to the deterioration of the brick wall along our property. Because AMI Insurance has not bothered to have a small crack repaired after the February earthquake, it has deteriorated in the following quakes and is now broken in several parts and a much bigger repair job will be needed – whenever this will be.
It is the same with houses that have only a few cracks. If you do nothing, one day they crumble and fall. Or look at hillside sections and houses sliding because the retaining walls have not been properly repaired or replaced.
Why would you not want to prop up unstable walls and instead watch them getting weaker by the day? And why does the Anglican Church only listen to local “experts” and not to international experts who have done such work over and over again? The restoration expert Marcus Brandt has given the only logical answer: because you do not want to get the result - which is saving, restoring and strengthening the Cathedral.
Leaving the building to the elements from above and below is like not giving a crutch to a man with a broken leg. The Wizard is dead-right that there must be a hidden agenda, and Marcus Brandt has revealed it in his brilliant piece in last Saturday’s Press.
Coming from the city with the world’s highest (Gothic) cathedral, I am shocked at how many people accept the unacceptable. Christ Church Cathedral is more than a building and the symbol of the city. It stands for Christchurch’s heritage and history, it holds the blood, sweat and tears of those who built and helped to build it.
It may not be spectacular in terms of international grandeur but even for someone like me who comes from a place where you find hundreds of much more spectacular Gothic churches, it is quite a pleasant building. In terms of historical value for New Zealand it is really old even if the “real” Gothic churches in Europe are 700 years older. It marks the start of neo-Gothic architecture in New Zealand and is irreplaceable, and therefore every effort should be made to restore it.
Here is the article by Marcus Brandt I refer to:
The Cathedral's difficult Start into Life
Although the Cathedral in this most English city outside England looks perfectly English Gothic, it has its very own NZ features. You just have to look closely.
Designed by George Gilbert Scott, the famous local architect Benjamin Montfort added his own ideas. You will find artworks that embrace the Pakeha, Maori and Polynesian cultures. Timbers (totara, matai) from Banks Peninsula were used in the ceiling. Around the high altar and pulpit the history of the church and settlement are depicted in carvings, and NZ birds and plants in carvings and stained glass.
The rose window above the west door (9m across) comprises more than 4000 glass pieces in 31 sections. The pipe organ is from 1924 and made up of 3938 pipes and 64 stops.
The Cathedral is named after the Christ Church of the Oxford University college/UK.
Building the church seemed to last forever, due to the continuing lack of money. The foundation stone was laid in 1864 - 14 years after the arrival of the first English settlers - and the foundations finished in 1865 before money ran out. Bishop Harper gave 50 pounds a year from his salary towards the building fund. Others followed and by 1873 building started again. The tower and main part of the cathedral were finished by 1881, and it was opened in 1884. Christchurch became known as the "Cathedral City". But the rest of the church was not completed until 1904. The total cost was 64,000 pounds.
The Cathedral is 60m long and 30m high (to the ceiling). The tower is 66m high, and for a very long time no building in the city was allowed to be higher. (Now the Price-Waterhouse building, in Armagh Street, is Chch's highest building with 76.3m; built in 1988.) Climb the 134 steps in the tower to the viewing platform, and you will be rewarded with fabulous views.
An extraordinary feature of the tower are the 13 bells that hang upside down.
However, Christchurch's oldest church is the spectacular wooden church of St. Michael's and All Angels.
Update 26 November 2011
Having lost his stage - Cathedral Square - in the February earthquake, the Wizard had been out of action for many months. But now this Christchurch icon has regained his territory. He's back! Instead of holding his speeches on Cathedral Square, you can find him now in front of Canterbury Museum, at the entrance to the Botanic Garden and the new (temporary) visitor centre (i-site). So not really far from where he once climbed his ladder.
As there have already been discussions in the forum wondering if the Wizard was still alive... Sure he is, but he is not on Cathedral Square every day anymore. As it is an unpaid job to climb on the ladder and hold speeches with a slightly anti-feminist touch, and having reached a certain age and wanting to spend time in his second home in Oamaru, he will not show up in rain and cold weather, and from 2006 he started limiting his season from November to April.
Normally the Wizard arrives at about 1pm (and only on weekdays) in his red VW Beetle which has two front parts with steering wheels, so you would think he could drive it either way. He parks it right beside the cathedral on the Square, so you can see immediately if you can expect him to speak. Already the car is an attraction of its own, and the Wizard is a real icon of Christchurch City although he is sure that feminist groups want to get rid of him.
The Wizard was born in London in 1932 as Ian Brackenbury. In 1963 he went to Australia where in 1969 he was appointed Wizard of the University of New South Wales. He donated his body as a Living Work of Art to the University of Victoria, and later transferred this title to New Zealand. He arrived in Christchurch in 1974 and offered his services as Wizard to the City Council but they declined. Since then the Wizard has spoken on Cathedral Square without the Council's love and affection and survived quite well. He really is an icon of the city, and when there is an official event not organised by the City he is often invited as the symbol of the city. The Wizard has even become Archwizard of Canterbury. Yesterday (2 Sept 2008) I have seen him eating a blue sausage on Cathedral Square at a function to raise awareness about prostate cancer. You see, he is still well and alive.
Read more about him on his website:
Photo 2 shows the Wizard's spectacular VW Beetle.
For the best advice on where to go and what to see, head down to the Christchurch i-SITE Visitor Centre located at the Cathderal Square.
A team of professionally trained, multi-lingual staff can answer questions, give you some advice, make bookings for your trip requirements and share a few local secrets with you.
You can collect some useful brochures for your trip. The centre opens daily from 8.30am (closed Christmas day only).
The Bridge of Remembrance is a war memorial that spans the Avon River along Cashel Street. It was unveiled on 11 November, 1924, and commemorates the sacrifice made by those who fought in WW1. The names of major battlefields are inscribed around the monument. Plaques were later added to honour WW2 soldiers.
Originally built as Christchurch City Council's municipal chambers, this beautiful Queen Anne building still plays an active part in the city's public life through exhibitions, talks and events. The community exhibition space has three galleries to showcase issues important to the city.
It is situated very close to the Central City Punting departure point.
Open to the public Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
The Provincial Council Buildings is purportedly the only purpose-built government buildings still in existence in New Zealand. Built with local stone and timbers between 1858 and 1865, the small cluster of buildings were erected on a site previously identified by Maori as one of significance, mainly because of its proximity to water - the Avon River.
Leading Victorian gothic-revival architect and English emigrant Benjamin Mountford designed the buildings. Mountford was to make his mark in his adopted country, overcoming the absence or inferior quality of materials to earn acclamation as one of the two best NZ architects of the 19th century.
Guided tours are available Monday to Saturday between 10.30am and 3pm; appointment by telephone.
Pay $5pp at the Visitors Centre for a token that gives access to the Christchurch Cathedral Tower. Spiralling flights of stairs and ladders (133 steps in total) take you to the top of the Tower, which opens up into small alcoves providing outstanding views of Christchurch in all directions. Beware, the stairway is quite narrow!
We were in Christchurch during the World Buskers Festival, and could clearly see (and even hear) the buskers perform in the square below. Also a nice place from which to view the sedately paced trams, as well as the 18m Chalice sculpted by Neil Dawson to symbolise native New Zealand plants.
The Tower itself is 36m high and the spire a further 27m.
Immerse yourself in Christchurch’s architecturally rich lanes. Lichfield Street boasts a number of historic 19th and 20th century warehouses with brick service lanes reminding of its industriousness. Begin at His Lordship’s Lane, which is now a thriving entertainment precinct. To the left of the lane entrance a historic advertisement is painted on the side of the former Bell’s Motor Works building. On the right, the former Wellington Woollen Mills leads you down the lane.
At the end of the lane turn right and proceed through SOL (South of Lichfield) square with its collection of bars, restaurants and retail outlets. You’ll pass Sargood, Son and Ewen with classic design details as well as the rear of the former Millers Department store (currently the Christchurch City Council Civic Offices). This building introduced the escalator to the South Island in 1939.
Opposite Millers you’ll find the rear of two 3-storey warehouses Bain’s and Harald’s, constructed between 1880 and 1890. Retracing your footsteps along Struthers Lane will bring you onto Manchester Street and the Excelsior Hotel. Turning left, walk to the Lichfield and High Street intersection for a view of the former ANZ Bank Chambers with its impressive copper dome turret.
Proceeding along High Street towards the intersection with Poplar Street you’ll discover the former Knight’s Butchery, Cotter’s Electrical and the Para building on the left. Poplar and Ash Streets host a number of boutique shops, cafes and restaurants. Finish the walk at the Mayfair building, a 4-storey brick and cement warehouse at the intersection of Poplar and Lichfield streets.
Part 1 - click here
- At the end of the street on the left is the Arts Centre with its shops, galleries, cafés and restauants. If you are here on a weekend, get your lunch at the international food stalls in the courtyard. Delicious and cheap!
- Across Rolleston Ave is the Canterbury Museum which, apart from its historic items, has a great bird collection (stuffed...) and a lot of fabulous info about earthquakes, water etc. The recreated Paua House from Bluff is a relatively new fabulous exhibit which gives great insight into Kiwiana - things typical for New Zealand.
- Entrance to the Botanic Garden where you should at least see the Rose and NZ Native Gardens, and to the right you can get to Hagley Park. If you turn left down Rolleston Ave you get to the Antigua Boatsheds (Punting on the Avon).
- Walk back on Worcester St, cross the Avon. On the left side you see a very beautiful red brick building. This is the Our City O-Tautahi Exhibition, which is no history museum but a place Christchurch people can hire for events and exhibitions. The building housed once the Provincial Chambers. On the right you have the statue of Captain Scott who started his Antarctica expeditions from the Port of Lyttelton.
- Turn right, walk along The Strip (pubs, restaurants) to Cashel Street. On the right is the Bridge of Remembrance (big memorial gate).
- Turn left, then left again into Colombo St and back to Cathedral Square.
If you go to the Antigua Boatsheds - alternative back to Cathedral Square:
- Cross the bridge at the sheds, turn left and walk along the Avon on Oxford Terrace.
- On the right side of the street you soon see the wonderful white wooden church St. Michael and All Angels. It is really worth a visit - it is a gem, and apart from that, Canterbury's mother church, older than Christ Church Cathedral.
- Carry on along Oxford Terrace.
- To your left you will soon see the Bridge of Remembrance. That is where the Strip with its pubs and restaurants starts. At the next corner (intersection with Worcester Boulevard you see the Our City O Tautahi (the red brick building) and Captain Scott's statue. (To the left of Our City O Tautahi, on the same side of the Avon, is another place for punting on the Avon. There is no office, they sell tickets right on the spot, at a garden seat.)
- Turn right into Worcester Boulevard and walk back to Cathedral Square.
Sorry that you find this walking tour split up in two tips. This is from the time when we could fit only 2000 characters into one tip.
If you have limited time I suggest a walk in the city centre which passes great places. You can just have a look or spend hours, though...
Start: Cathedral Square
- Visit the cathedral and the tower for a great view over the city. If you have no time for a visit to the wildlife parks take the chance to "meet" a kiwi (bird) at the Southern Encounter/Aquarium. The entrance is beside the Pathway Souvenir Shop, just some steps from the Visitor Centre and Starbucks Café, in the old Regent's Theatre building (building with the creamy white domed tower).
- Walk around the left side of the cathedral. Turn left into a mall named Cathedral Junction (cafés, shops, tramway). Cross it. Across the next street (Gloucester) starts New Regent Street, Christchurch's most picturesque street, with its pastel blue, green and yellow facades in Spanish Mission Style. Best photos when the tramway passes... ;-) Do not miss to have a look at the tons of teddybears in the Inkwell Giftshop.
- Turn left at the end of New Regent St into Armagh St, cross Colombo St and visit Victoria Square. (If you feel hungry in Armagh Street, pop into the Copenhagen Bakery, they have the best bread - European style - in Christchurch, and super delicious cakes and Award winning pies, and, and, and... And it is not expensive at all. Long but fast dissolving queues during lunch time.)
- From here stroll along the Avon as described in my extra tip and have a look at the Harry-Potter-film-like Provincial Chambers, the Kate Sheppard Memorial etc.
- Turn right into Worcester Blvd., walk along the tramway line. At the next intersection you have the new Art Gallery which is worth a visit.
The Avon is a very tricky river. If you are lost and think you could follow it to find your way back you could have a very long walk ahead of you. The Avon meanders through the inner city, and you could walk a mile for covering a distance of a few hundred metres from A to B.
Of course, the Avon is most famous for the punting. The punters are the guys who are called gondolieri in Venice. At the Antigua Boatsheds - located next to the Hospital - you can hire punter and boat. And if you want to be more active you can hire a kayak, canoe, paddle or rowing boat. Seems a little expensive to me with NZ$ 20 per half hour for two for a paddle boat. (Double kayak $ 20 per hour, single kayak $ 10 per hour, rowing boat and Canadian canoe $ 30 per hour; prices as May 2009).
The boat trip or walk on or along the Avon through the Botanic Garden is rather romantic. But there are other nice stretches of the Avon, and I really like to walk from Victoria Square to the Strip (Oxford Terrace). There are many places of interest on those several hundred metres from A to B.
From Victoria Square walk to Armagh St (tramway line), cross it and cross the bridge, then turn left and walk along the river. The first interesting buildings are the picturesque Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings. Cross the next bridge again (Gloucester St) and walk along Oxford Terrace. Next comes the Kate Sheppard (Sufragettes') Memorial which reminds us that NZ was the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote, then a statue of the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott. On the other side of the Avon is the Canterbury Club, an old-established gentlemen's club; the hitching post and gas lamp standard on the footpath are the last remaining in the city. Finally you reach the Bridge of Remembrance on Cashel Street.
Update 14 May 2009 was for adjusting the current prices for the boat hire.
For punting and contact details see extra tip.
If you are down on cash a great thing to do is to walk beside the tram track that loops around the city centre - if you have the money you may want to pay to go on the tram - I have never done this before though.
The track is only a few kilometres and goes from the city centre by the Cathedral and takes you past the old university, botanic gardens and a number of small parks and historic buildings.
A nice quiet stroll, stopping to look at the sights will only take as long as you like, depending on how many things you want to stop and look at on the way.
We have had such discussions in my old city of Ulm in Germany when they built the modern "Stadthaus" next to the gothic Cathedral, and there were surely some people who found it inappropiate that such a cold-looking sculpture like the Chalice was erected next to the Victorian Gothic revival style Christchurch Cathedral. But here and there most of the pure conservationists have found their peace with the modern addition.
The Chalice on Cathedral Square was officially lighted on 7 September 2001. It celebrates the new millennium and the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and Canterbury.
It is shaped like an ice-cream cone, standing 18m high, with a diameter of 1.2m at the ground and 8.5m at the top.
There is much thought behind it. The sculptor Neil Dawson whose works are on display at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Wellington and Auckland, created the conical shape as the mirror reflection of the Cathedral spire.
Above the solid steel base, sitting on a block of black granite, you will easily recognise the network of leaves which has the structure of a perforated shell. These leaves were cut from 42 aluminium sheets that were welded to triangular beam structures and then bolted to the rounded hexagonal frame. The leaf pattern depicts the leaves of native trees (mapou, kowhai, mahoe, totara, karamu, titoki, ngaio, maratata and koromiko) that once grew in the city centre. (The closest place where you can see most of them today are the nearby Botanic Gardens.)
As these leaf patterns are like a net, becoming less dense, more detailed and leaving bigger gaps the higher you get, you get changing views through the open texture. The artist's intention was to reflect the geometric features of the Cathedral in the Chalice, the architecture, windows and tiles.
In good light you easily see that the Chalice has different colours on the outside and inside. The exterior is painted silver, the inside metallic blue. On the photo in this tip you can see this very well as I had - as I call it - rainbow skies, meaning: black rainy sky on one side and the sun shining from the other side. At night the Chalice is illuminated.
In another tip I have written about Cathedral Square at night you can see which perfect reflection of the Cathedral the Chalice is, as there I have both "cones" on one photo.