11 Jun 2015

Town hall restoration back before council

7:13 am on 11 June 2015

Supporters of the restoration of the Christchurch Town Hall are optimistic Christchurch City Council will today commit to saving the earthquake damaged building.

Exterior damage to the Christchurch town hall from the earthquakes.

Exterior damage to the Christchurch town hall from the earthquakes. Photo: RNZ

In 2013 the council voted to fully restore the building, despite public criticism of the move by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister.

That decision was put on hold while the council reassessed its financial position, and accounting firm Deloitte put together a business case on the proposal.

Today the Council will consider the Deloitte report, which recommends the council goes ahead with the full restoration of the building, at an estimated cost of $127.5 million.

Architectural historian Jessica Halliday said she would love the council to again agree to restore the town hall.

"Architecturally it is one of the most important buildings we constructed in the 20th century," sid Ms Halliday.

"It is (also) of international technical significance for a real advance in acoustic design of concert halls."

The Deloitte report looked what mix of facilities is needed in Christchurch, and concluded a fully restored town hall was one of them.

'Part of who we are'

Christchurch Civic Music Council vice chair Margaret Austin said after those findings, the Council had no choice but to vote to save the entire building.

"It's is unthinkable that you would not restore a heritage [category] one building," Mrs Austin said.

"Architecturally, there have been a few complaints about it, but it is novel, it is part of the fabric of this city, and part of who we are."

The architect who designed the town hall, Sir Miles Warren, said the building needs to be experienced as a whole, not as partially restored.

"To take off a third of a work of art is like taking someone's legs off, and interestingly enough when you look at the figures, it doesn't save so very much."

The Town Hall foyer before the quake.

The Town Hall foyer before the quake. Photo: Wikicommons

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has previously said the Council's decision to repair the town hall was a lost opportunity, as it would mean less money available for the proposed new performing arts precinct.

This view has been backed by Felicity Price, the former chair of the Court Theatre and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, who has previously argued for keeping the main auditorium and demolishing the rest.

Another former opponent to restoring the Town Hall is Luke Di Somma, a Christchurch based composer and conductor.

He said the council seemed set on repairing the building so they should just get on with it.

In his view the worst outcome would be no decision.

"The worst decision is more doubt, and more deferment," said Mr Di Somma.

"I'd rather they got on with it and got the shovels in the ground and started repairing the venue, with the important caveat that they continue the work on making the facility better."

Options before today's council meeting:

  • Full restoration, at an estimated cost of $127.5m
  • Partially restore the building, estimated at $91m-$109m.
  • Build a new, smaller complex, at a cost of $193m
  • Do nothing, which carries a cost of $12m

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