15 Dec 2017

A heritage grant approved by Christchurch City Council will be used to help preserve a mid-century office block designed by the renowned Christchurch architect Peter Beaven.

The Canterbury Building Society building, at 159 Manchester Street, is regarded as significant partly because  it is the last remaining large-scale building in Christchurch that Beaven designed.

The Peter Beaven designed building at 159 Manchester Street.

The Peter Beaven designed building at 159 Manchester Street.

It is an intact example of the early modern architecture in Christchurch that used innovative building techniques such as expressed concrete frame and infill panel construction and fully cantilevered concrete verandahs. It also occupies a special place in the heart of town, near the intersection of High, Manchester and Lichfield streets.

The Council has agreed to give a grant of up to $900,000 from its Central City Landmark Heritage Fund to the new owners of the building, Box 112, to help them meet the cost of seismically upgrading the building while preserving its heritage integrity and strong architectural character.

“The aim of these grants is to help towards saving and preserving landmark central city buildings, and the CBS building is a very worthy recipient – the last of its kind from a towering figure in Christchurch’s architectural history,” said Brendan Smyth, Team Leader Heritage at the Council.

“This building is one of a kind in the city and will have even more value in 100 years. By helping to support its seismic upgrade and restoration, we are recognising its significance as an outstanding example of early modernist architecture in Christchurch,” Mr Smyth said.

Originally known as the Canterbury Terminating Building Society building, it was constructed between 1957 and 1960, and was the first large-scale office building built in Christchurch after World War II.

It was the first major commission for Beaven and was instrumental in establishing his practice and bringing modern architecture and technology to Christchurch. It set the stage for a number of notable buildings including Beaven’s Manchester Unity building, Paul Pascoe’s Peryer’s building and Warren and Mahoney’s SIMO building, all of which are now demolished.

“The CBS building is a mid-century building representing a particular era in Christchurch architecture, and is in some respects ahead of its time when you look at other commercial buildings that have appeared around Christchurch post-earthquake,” Mr Smyth says.

“It hasn’t changed very much at all since 1960 and still has all of its architectural style, form and finishes, which is very rare,” Mr Smyth says.

“The original features, including the staircase with its modern timber balustrades, the rooftop terrace with the angled railings and the fully glazed apartment walls, are all still intact.

“The grant is a strong incentive to save the building, and its preservation will help to revitalise this part of the central city at the intersection of Manchester, High and Lichfield streets,’’ Mr Smyth says.

The CBS building suffered some minor structural damage in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes but needs a substantial upgrade to be commercially viable. Any strengthening work will be done internally to preserve its distinct exterior features.

Building owner and developer Sam Rofe from Box 112 said the Central City Landmark Heritage funding would help to preserve an important landmark building in the city.

 “The Pink Lady, as we've nicknamed 'her', because of the effect of when the sunlight catches the building, is an unrepeatable asset for the city.  As Peter Beaven's first commercial building, the Pink Lady occupies a special place in the heart of town, and any treatment and restoration deserves to be worthy of that. We're planning a 40-bedroom hotel for the building, with a cocktail bar on level six,'' Mr Rofe said.