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Inaugural Christchurch Festival Celebrating Architectural Excellence Attracts Over 12,000 Visits

Over 600 members of the public turned up to the CSO's dress rehearsal at the Douglas Lilburn Auditorium between 10am and 12.30pm on Saturday morning at the Town Hall, a landmark Warren & Mahoney building. Open Christchurch 2021, image by Peanut Productions

From over 600 members of the public who turned up to hear the CSO’s dress rehearsal at the internationally acclaimed Douglas Lilburn Auditorium at the Town Hall on Saturday morning to the last of the booked-out backstage tours running at the Isaac Theatre Royal, the inaugural festival of Open Christchurch was a huge success from start to finish.

The queue outside of the Town Hall on Saturday morning marked not only the start of the one-weekend-only festival of architectural excellence, but also demonstrated the public’s genuine interest in architecture and desire to discover the city through some of its best-designed spaces.

The festival welcomed over 12,000 pairs of feet across the various doors over the course of the weekend. 

Attendees took up the opportunity to explore the range of 46 buildings and participate in over 35 architectural-based activities that were part of the programme, which included booked-out visits to homes of architectural significance, architectural tours, children’s workshops, behind-the-scenes tours and access to buildings or parts of buildings not normally available to the public.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel shared the views from her office on the 6th floor of the Te Hononga Civic Building, hosting close to 350 people in her office across Saturday, while old boys and current students alike showed groups of curious people through heritage buildings at Christ’s College. Attendance at architectural tours consistently exceeded expectations, while 65 Cambridge Terrace, the Modernist treasure that once housed the Warren & Mahoney offices as well as a private residence for Sir Miles Warren, was packed throughout the Saturday.

Te Pūtahi - Centre for Architecture & City-Making, the organisation behind Open Christchurch, says that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Attendee Zohnia McNeill, a dentist from Christchurch, articulated the festival’s impact for her: “This weekend has been inspiring and fun. I’ve loved seeing a different side of Christchurch that I didn’t know existed. I didn’t know what was behind those big, beautiful doors and now I know’, while Judy Hutchinson, also from Christchurch, summed up the experience: ‘Stunning. And moving. Makes me feel more positive about and more in touch with my city.’

Some participants had travelled from outside Christchurch specifically for the event, including Julia Gatley, Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Auckland: “We’ve had an amazing time and particular highlights have been the Warren and Mahoney places from the 60s and 70s with tours and full access. It’s an inspiration for other cities.”

Te Pūtahi plans to run Open Christchurch annually, with dates set for next year’s edition on the weekend of 30 April-1 May.

Festival organisers wish to thank all the building partners for generously opening up their buildings to the public, all the experts for sharing their knowledge at talks and on tours, the volunteers for donating their time and energy to the smooth running of the festival and the public for turning out in droves to support and participate in a celebration of not only Christchurch's architecture, but of Christchurch itself.

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