New Christchurch Town Hall opens

30 September 1972

Main auditorium of the Christchurch Town Hall
Main auditorium of the Christchurch Town Hall (Warren and Mahoney)

Designed by prominent Christchurch architects Warren and Mahoney, the Brutalist (blocky, using lots of concrete) structure was officially opened by Governor-General Sir Denis Blundell. Featuring wooden panelling and beams, the complex on the north bank of the Avon River overlooking Victoria Square cost about $4 million when completely fitted out, equivalent to $54 million in 2020. $500,000 was raised by public subscription and the remainder was contributed by local authorities.

The elliptical concert auditorium seating 2350 people benefited from pioneering acoustical research by Harold Marshall that was later applied to Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre and buildings overseas. The James Hay Theatre seated 1000 people for drama and chamber music performances. A restaurant and function rooms complemented these facilities.

The February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, which caused liquefaction and ground movement in the area, forced the closure of the town hall and the demolition of an adjoining convention centre. Work to partially demolish, repair and improve the main town hall building began in 2015 and was completed in early 2019 at a cost of $167 million.

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