Things to do  |  27 Mar 2023

See inside some of Christchurch’s most enchanting buildings and intriguing spaces as the annual Open Christchurch festival of architectural excellence returns in May.

If you’ve been wanting to explore the amazing transformation of the Arts Centre’s Observatory Hotel, the heritage buildings at Christ’s College or Addington's converted industrial treasure Woods Mill, you’re in luck.

These favourites are returning along with a host of new experiences, including a behind-the-fences tour of the Canterbury Provincial Chambers.  

Fifty-two buildings of different ages, styles and uses will be open for the public to experience for free, apart from a handful of private residences that require a small booking fee. 

This year’s festival focuses on the renowned partnership of Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney and the rise of the Christchurch Modern style, the city’s coastal identity, and the journey of educational architecture in Christchurch, spanning 159 years in the programme.

Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings (Benjamin Mountfort, 1858-65). Image by Peanut Productions.

Seven buildings, including three private residences, capture the development of Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney’s significant partnership. People can sign up for a Christchurch City Libraries sketch tour of Warren & Mahoney buildings and the Macmillan Brown Library will be displaying Warren & Mahoney’s architectural drawings as part of its bookable behind-the-scenes tour. 

People are invited to explore the city in different ways, whether that be discovering the estuary-inspired rebuild of the Mt Pleasant Community Centre with its architect Chris Moller (formerly of Grand Designs), or taking a guided walk through the University of Canterbury to explore its journey of becoming a te Tiriti based campus with Corban Te Aika (Ngāi Tahu).

Children’s architecture-themed workshops at the Arts Centre return, as do expert tours of buildings by the architects and engineers behind their design. The Tongan Church Fonua 'o e maná with Michael O’Sullivan, Te Ora Hou with Amiria Kiddell and St Andrew’s Centennial Chapel with Jane Rooney are some of the inclusions.

These are just a few of the highlights to appear in the one-weekend-only festival, presented by Te Pūtahi - Centre for Architecture & City-Making.

Open Christchurch begins with a special evening programme on Friday 5 May and continues with its full programme on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 May.

Visit for bookings, building-specific accessibility and more information to create your own itinerary of highlights!

Main image: St Andrew's College - Centennial Chapel (Architectus, 2016). Photograph by Sarah Rowlands.