Things to do  |  18 Apr 2023

Open Christchurch, the annual festival of architectural excellence, is fast approaching.

Over the weekend of 6 and 7 May, the doors to 52 buildings will be thrown open to the public, giving visitors and residents the chance to have a good snoop behind closed doors.

Among the range of buildings on offer are a selection of quiet achievers that sit off the beaten track and are open access, which means you just turn up on the day at the advertised opening times.

Head out to Wigram on Saturday 6 May between 11am and 2pm to experience the Fonua ’o e maná Tongan Church.

Designed by Bull & O’Sullivan Architecture, Michael O’Sullivan will be on site giving a free architecture tour at 1pm for those wishing to delve deeper into the space. 

The Lyttelton Studio Monastery will be open during the festival. (Bull O'Sullivan Architecture, 2015), photo by Patrick Reynolds

Across the other side of the city is another Bull & O’Sullivan stunner, the Lyttelton Studio Monastery, which perches elegantly above the iconic landscape. Open on Sunday 7 May, 9am-1pm, this building’s rough and weathered exterior belies the treasures within. The lower levels mimic a ship’s quarters, while the studio captures stunning views across the harbour.

For those wanting to see several buildings at a stop, head out to New Brighton to visit the surf clubs and the gorgeous Collins & Harman design, St Faith’s Church.

The University of Canterbury serves up a selection of Modernist buildings, while Ara is opening Kahukura, home to its Architectural and Engineering Schools. Experts will be on site Saturday and Sunday 10am-1pm to chat about the sustainability aspects of the building and how it serves as a teaching tool.

Stay with education but head east to Te Aratai College and enjoy a student-led tour around the campus. A free architecture tour will also be put on at 12pm and 1pm on the Saturday.

Finally, why not check some treasures tucked into the central city? The Canterbury Officers’ Club, next door to CoCA, is a rare surviving example of Modernism that predates the city’s affair with Brutalism.

Meanwhile the Rose Historic Chapel on Colombo Street is a gorgeous Gothic Revival building that was commissioned by women, for women. Discover why this little building has so much historical and architectural value for the city of Christchurch at free talk on Saturday and Sunday at 10am.

For more information, building opening times and activity timetables, visit

Main image: New Brighton Surf Life Saving Club (South by Southeast Architects with Snøhetta, 2021), photo by Sarah Rowlands