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Te Pūtahi releases programme for the festival of architectural excellence: Open Christchurch 2024

08 Apr 2024

Open Christchurch 2024, supported by Resene, celebrates some of Christchurch’s best architecture and special spaces that contribute to Ōtautahi’s sense of place.

This year’s festival, taking place 3-5 May, highlights a variety of buildings, landscapes and experiences, with a focus on innovative mixed-use and adaptive reuse, and rich residential and recreational offerings that span 160 years. 

Special architectural encounters include the chance to see how a large supermarket distribution centre has been successfully transformed into a fully functioning school in a superb example of adaptive reuse at Marian College; an introduction to intergenerational living and housing on ancestral Māori land at the Rāpaki Papakāinga from the whānau who live there; an evening exploring Ōtautahi’s love affair with Christchurch Modern houses. 

Marian College (Sheppard & Rout Architects, 2023). Image by Sarah Rowlands.

The festival is also serving up several one-off experiences, such as the chance to get behind the hoardings during construction at The Court Theatre and to explore the entirety of the mixed-use Youth Hub, a one-of-a-kind youth facility dedicated to maintaining and improving the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Open Christchurch is also offering the rare opportunity to head inside the Christ Church Cathedral and hear about the reinstatement project from an expert. 

People are invited to explore the city in different ways, whether that be experiencing the much-loved Washington Skatepark in full swing; exploring the joyful Te Raekura Redcliffs School with whānau or on an architectural tour; discovering the food hub Ōtākaro Orchard through the senses or taking guided walks through the award-winning Fonua Mana Tongan Church or Erskine Building at the University of Canterbury. 

Fonua Mana (Bull & O’Sullivan Architecture, 2022). Image by Peanut Productions.

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

Open Christchurch begins with a special evening lecture at Te Puna Wānaka on Friday 3 May from Professor Albert Refiti that considers the history and presence of Pacific architecture across the Moana and in Aotearoa, and continues with its full programme on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 May. Fifty 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. 

Two other special events offer different ways of thinking about Christchurch’s built legacy. ‘A love affair with Christchurch Modern houses’ examines what it is to love, live in and care for mid-century dwellings, while New Foundations sees five young storytellers sharing their reflections on architecture in a quickfire celebration of words and the city.

Public Trust Office (Cecil Wood, 1922-25; restoration: Three Sixty Architecture, 2020). Image by Sarah Rowlands.

Four guided walks explore different ways of seeing our city, while three designed landscapes offer other ways of considering our urban spaces. The Summit Signs capture the history of conservation and recreation in the Port Hills. Audio-described tours explore Marian College and Tūranga for those who are blind and low-vision, while a New Zealand Sign Language Tour is on offer at Papa Hou, a remarkable mixed-use community facility.

Old favourites include behind-closed-doors access to the Observatory Hotel at the Arts Centre and university hall of residence College House, architecture tours with Michael O’Sullivan at the colourful, compact and finely crafted Te Hohepa Kōhanga Reo, and the chance to chat with the Mayor and Councillors at the Te Hononga Civic Building. Over 40 activities, such as talks, tours, exhibitions and workshops, provide additional ways to learn about the city’s architecture.

Other highlights include culturally, historically and architecturally important buildings that are not generally open for free to the public, such as the striking art deco building across from Margaret Mahy - the Former MED Converter and Substation Building, complete with architecture tours and a behind-the-scenes look at the NZME studio, as well as Rangi Ruru’s Te Koraha. Oxford Terrace Baptist Church community opens up its apartments on bookable tours and shares manaakitanga with attendees through a BBQ and architecture talk. 

Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre - Te Whare Tapere/The Common Room (Collins & Harman, 1916). Image by Peanut Productions.

Te Pūtahi director Jessica Halliday says, “Open Christchurch is a chance to encounter the city through architecture and designed spaces. Thanks to the generosity of our building partners, we have a wide array of buildings to explore in 2024. Most do not require booking - so just plan your weekend and turn up. This year we’re pleased to offer myriad ways to discover and learn about architecture and the built environment, including an architectural treasure hunt in the central city designed for children and whānau.”

Event organisers encourage residents and visitors to study the programme and website to create their own itinerary of highlights so that they can discover the city in new ways.

Buildings are open at different times across the weekend, bookable activities are timetabled and a handful of buildings require advance bookings.

Open Christchurch celebrates our special places and local architecture, and the story of the city over time.

Visit for bookings, building-specific accessibility and more information.

Published: 08 Apr 2024