Things to do  |  21 Apr 2022

Some of the highlights at this year’s Te Pūtahi Open Christchurch festival of architecture are hidden in plain sight.

Organised by Te Pūtahi - Centre for Architecture and City-Making, Open Christchurch returns for a weekend-long celebration of the city’s special spaces on 30 April and 1 May – and among them are some hidden gems you may not know exist.

“There are some fascinating buildings that aren’t usually open to the public or are a bit out of the way,” says Te Pūtahi director Jessica Halliday.

“For example the industrial treasure Wood’s Mill which is tucked away on a side street in Addington. This is a Victorian building of a scale designed in the classical manner whose history reflects the changing of the city around it – from flour mill powered by steam and then electricity and serviced by rail, to theatre, exhibition space, apartments and now mixed use.

“Visitors will get an interesting insight into nineteenth century industry as the building retains some of the original elements inside,” Dr Halliday says.

Wood’s Mill will be open on Sunday 1 May, 10am-4pm

Poynton House, David Allen, 1974. Image by Sarah Rowlands

On a smaller scale is Poynton House, an example of Christchurch modernism with a fun, ‘70’s twist.

“The strong lines and roof shapes, use of white-painted concrete blocks and exposed elements are an echo of the Warren and Mahoney building directly opposite at 65 Cambridge Terrace which is also open during the festival,” says Dr Halliday.

Ensconced between two larger and more contemporary buildings at 68 Oxford Terrace, the building sits across from the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial and features views of the Port Hills from its rear windows.

Poynton House is open on Saturday 30 April, 10am – 2pm and 65 Cambridge Terrace is open on Sunday 1 May, 10am-4pm.

Further afield, an unassuming public toilet at Brooklands Lagoon is the smallest building in the programme.

“This sits in a very beautiful setting at the mouth of the Styx River and has a lot to offer visitors: it’s poetic, sculptural and full of references to the site which is an historical place of travel for local Māori – well worth heading out to see. There will be a free tour with the architect on Sunday morning at 11am.

“I’d also single out Harewood Crematorium as something not to miss. From the striking butterfly roof to the use of simple materials, clean lines and geometric forms, this is a celebrated piece of New Zealand architecture.

“Start your Open Christchurch weekend there on Friday 29 April, 5.30-7.30pm: light a candle, pull up a seat, reflect on the year and experience this special place.”

A full festival programme is available online. 

*Main image: Wood's Mill, J C Maddison, 1890. Photo by Peanut Productions