History & heritage  |  10 Oct 2020

A new three-storey building and a second Rolleston Avenue entrance are included in concept designs for the $195 million redevelopment of Canterbury Museum.

The concept designs have been drawn up by Athfield Architects and are now on display in the Bird Hall at the museum for people who want to look at them and give feedback.

David Ayers, who is chair of the Canterbury Museum Board, says the brief given to Athfield was “quite challenging’’.

“We were very clear that any redevelopment must not reduce the historic importance of the heritage buildings or their cultural value,’’ Mr Ayers says.

“We want the proposed redevelopment to enhance and celebrate our history by unveiling heritage fabric that has been hidden for many years. The concepts have more than met our expectations and we’re looking forward to hearing what the Canterbury community thinks.’’

At the heart of the redeveloped museum will be a new space called Araiteuru, housed in a central full-height atrium, which is where the story of mana whenua and tangata whenu will be told.

 Araiteuru will be home to a new contemporary whare – a ceremonial and educational space. The Whare Whakairo Hau Te Ananui O Tangaroa, a taonga that hasn’t been on display for 64 years, will also be housed there.

The concept designs propose that the walls on the northern side of the original Benjamin Mountfort-designed buildings will be revealed and original exterior elements, including the slender roof top spire on the Rolleston Avenue façade, will be reinstated.

A new three-storey building, within the height limits of the Rolleston Avenue roofline, would wrap around the north side the heritage buildings, exposing their heritage walls to public view.

The building would include mezzanine floors, multifunctional spaces such as a new lecture theatre, and increased space for permanent and temporary collections.

Base isolation would be added across the site to protect the heritage buildings and the collections and to bring the site up to 100 per cent of the building code.

A key element of the concept designs is a second Rolleston Avenue entrance. The current entrance is too small for the more than 750,000 people who visit the museum each year.

A focal point in the new entry will be the suspended skeleton of the 26.5 metre blue whale, which has been in the museum collection since it arrived in Christchurch on a horse and cart in 1908. It has not been on public display for 26 years. The new entry will also have a café with sidewalk seating.

Floor to ceiling glass will be added to part of two floors of the Roger Duff Wing, which will house a split-level family café alongside Discovery, the museum’s natural history centre for children.

The public have until 23 October to give their feedback on the concepts designs, which can also be viewed online at canterburymuseum.com.

Canterbury Museum is a stand-alone entity which is funded by four local authorities, including Christchurch City Council, under the terms of the Canterbury Museum Trust Board Act 1993.