Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

The Isaac Theatre Royal is a heritage theatre in Christchurch.

The theatre, which was designed by Australian brothers Sidney and Alfred Luttrell, opened in 1908. It is the only operational Edwardian style theatre remaining in New Zealand.

The first theatre on Gloucester Street, the Canterbury Music Hall, a wooden building was built in 1863, on a site across the road from the current theatre. The theatre later became the Royal Princess Theatre and then the Theatre Royal. This building was replaced by another wooden building in 1876.

The new Theatre Royal opened on its current site in February 1908. Its design included a traditional horseshoe-shaped dress circle and gallery, elaborately decorated walls and a painted dome. The theatre has had several renovations over the years. In 1928 the theatre interior had a major rebuild – only the dome, which features a painting of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, remained untouched.

By the 1970s owner J.C. Williamson Theatres were scaling down investments in New Zealand. As a buyer was unable to be found it appeared the theatre would be demolished and the land sold. A group ‘Friends of the Christchurch Theatre Royal’ was formed to try and save the theatre. The Theatre Royal Foundation was later formed that raised the funds to buy the theatre from Williamson.

For many years restoration work was carried out with very little budget. Between 2004 and 2005, a $6.2 million redevelopment was undertaken. This included demolishing the original brick fly tower and dressing room facilities and building a larger modern concrete fly tower and dressing room facilities. The stage and fly tower was made wider and deeper.

Unfortunately the auditorium and foyer were damaged during the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake and following aftershocks. The theatre was closed for nearly four years while a $40 million restoration was completed. The theatre reopened on the 17 November 2014.

The main auditorium seats up to 1292 across three levels – Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle. There is also the Gloucester Room, which is a studio space suitable for rehearsals, workshops and performances.

The theatre is named after art patron Lady Diana Isaac, who generously supported the 2004/05 refurbishment. Lady Isaac passed away 23 November 2012, aged 91.

The Isaac Theatre Royal is at 145 Gloucester Street. It is just around the corner from the New Regent Street Precinct.

Avon River

The Avon River flows through the centre of Christchurch city.

Avon River

Avon River

The river travels from a spring in the suburb of Avonhead through the western suburbs towards the Botanic Gardens, Hagley Park and the Central Business District. From the city it travels east eventually flowing into the Pacific Ocean via the Avon Heathcote Estuart near Sumner.

The river gets its name from the Avon River in Ayrshire, Scotland. It was named in 1842 by early Scottish settlers William and John Deans.

Due to contamination linked to the earthquakes it is not advisable to swim in the Avon River.

One way to experience the Avon River is on a guided punting tour. There are two departure points. In the Botanic Gardens the departure point is the Antiqua Boat Sheds and the the city departure point is by the Worchester Bridge. A return trip from either point is approximately 30 minutes.

Punting on the Avon River

Punting on the Avon River

In my opinion the best way to see the Avon River is to walk along one of the many paths that line its banks. There are walks through the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park. Another popular walk is following the Avon River through the CBD.

Te Papa Ōtākaro / Avon River Precinct is a restoration and development project of a 3.2 km area surrounding the river following the Christchurch earthquakes.

Watermark was the first section to open in August 2013 between the Antigua Boatsheds and Montreal Street with boardwalks, walkways and street furniture. The Antigua Boatsheds were built in 1882 and are the last of the commercial boat sheds that once lined the river. A variety of row boats can be hired from here.

I started my walk at Victoria Square, originally known as Market Square or Market Place. It was developed and renamed Victoria Square in 1896 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. A statue of Queen Victoria was erected in 1903. Other key features include the Captain James Cook statue and the H.L. Bowker Fountain. A $7 million revamp of Victoria Square is in the planning stages at the moment.

The cast iron and stone Hamish Hay Bridge (also known as Victoria Bridge) was built 1863-4 to replace the wooden Papanui Bridge. The bridge originally had a width of 27 ft 6in. Further work was completed in 1875 and 1885 bringing the width to 66 ft. It is the country’s oldest cast iron and stone bridge and survived the Christchurch earthquakes undamaged.

Cook Statue, Victoria Square

Cook Statue, Victoria Square

Hamish Hay Bridge / Victoria Bridge

Hamish Hay Bridge / Victoria Bridge

Several other heritage bridges cross the Avon River including the Italianate-style arch Worchester Bridge constructed in 1885 and the Hereford Street Bridge constructed in 1938.

Over the coming years there is going to be a lot of work done revamping the Avon River Precinct. Downsteam, next to the Bridge of Remembrance, is going to be The Terraces, which is going to be a key attraction in the precinct. Another attraction being built is the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. The playground is expected to open around Christmas 2015.

The Bridge of Remembrance was built to commemorate those that served in World War I and was unveiled in November 1924. The archway was built over the Cashel Street bridge. It is currently being repaired following earthquake damage.

Bridge of Remembrance

Bridge of Remembrance

Park of Remembrance

Park of Remembrance

Quake City

Quake City is a exhibition on the Christchurch earthquakes.

Quake City

Quake City

The purpose built exhibition opened in February 2013 after the Canterbury Museum hosted a temporary exhibition in 2012.

The museum will be located on Cashel Street, opposite the Re:START Container Mall until May 2017. It is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. Adults are $20, concession $16, accompanied children under 15 are free.

The February 2011 earthquake caused wide spread damage to Christchurch city. There are some objects on display including a sign from the Pyne Gould Corporation building; from the Cathedral Blessed Sacrament there are pieces from the dome, the Belfry door from the North Bell tower, and one of the four bells; from the Provincial Chambers there is the Speaker’s Chair, decorative ceiling pieces, and a clock and carved head from the Stone Chamber; and from the Christ Church Cathedral there is the fallen spire.

Elements from the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament

Elements from the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament

Christchurch Cathedral Spire

Christ Church Cathedral Spire

There are also displays from those who helped in the aftermath of the earthquake including Mayor Bob Parker’s orange jacket, items from Student Volunteer Army and Search and Rescue workers.

There are interactive activities for visitors including jumping on the spot to see seismograph in action, pedaling on a bike to play a cycle-powered short film, and a Lego table for the young and young at heart.

Also there is interview footage with locals telling their stories from that day.

Be sure to check out the restroom facilities!

Re:Start container mall

The Re:START container mall was formed following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake to bring business and people back into the city centre.



This outdoor mall consisting of temporary buildings made from colourful shipping containers is located on the Cashell Street part of what was City Mall.

City Mall was an outdoor pedestrian mall, which opened following the closure of parts of Cashell and High Street to vehicle traffic in 1982. City Mall was badly damaged during the Christchurch earthquakes.

The Re:START mall opened in October 2011 with 27 businesses and now has over 50 businesses today. It is open Monday to Friday 10 am to 5:30 pm. Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays 10 am – 5 pm.

At the end of the mall, on the corner of Cashell and Columbo streets, anchoring the complex is Ballantynes. Established is 1854, Ballantynes is New Zealand’s first department store and was one of the first major retailers to reopen in the city centre following the earthquake.





Cardboard Cathedral

The ChristChurch Transitional Cathedral, also known as the Cardboard Cathedral, is the temporary cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch.

ChristChurch Transitional Cathederal

ChristChurch Transitional Cathedral

The Transitional Cathedral, which is located at 234 Hereford Street, at the southern end of Latimer Square, opened in August 2013 after the original ChristChurch Cathedral was badly damaged in the February 2011 earthquake.

It is open daily from 9 am. During the summer months (November to March) the Cathedral will close at 7 pm, unless there is a later evening service. In the winter months the Cathedral will close at 5 pm or following a later evening service.

Latimer Square looking towards the Cathedral

Latimer Square looking towards the Cathedral

The Cathedral was designed pro bono by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. It is built using timber, steel and recycled cardboard tubes.

The A-frame roof consists of 86 cardboard tubes. The roof is covered with translucent corrugated polycarbonate panels. There are two inch gaps between each tube, which allows light to flow through the translucent roof.

Ban was approached to design the Cathedral after the Diocese saw photographs of previous works. Ban had designed a cardboard tube cathedral in Japan for the Takatori Catholic Church following the 1995 Great Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake. It was deconstructed in 2006 and donated to the Taomi Village in Taiwan, which suffered an earthquake in 1999.

ChristChurch Transitional Cathderal

ChristChurch Transitional Cathderal

Located just a few blocks from the Transitional Cathedral is the ruins of the original ChristChurch Cathedral and Cathedral Square. This Cathedral was constructed between 1864 and 1904.

The Anglican Church has decided to demolish the Cathedral and replace it with a new Cathedral. This decision has caused some controversy.



ChristChurch Cathedral ruins, July 2015

ChristChurch Cathedral ruins, July 2015

Christchurch Rebuild Tour

Christchurch Rebuild Tour, is a guided bus tour of Christchurch city’s progress to rebuild following the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

Site of recently demolished police station

Site of recently demolished police station

At 4:35 am on Saturday 4th September 2010 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Canterbury region. The epicentre of the quake was located 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Christchurch, near Darfield. The earthquake caused power cuts and widespread damage particularly to Christchurch. There were no deaths as a result of the earthquake, but  one person died of a heart attack.

Tragically on Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12:51 pm a 6.3 earthquake struck. This quake was centred 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) west of Lyttelton and 10 kilometres (6 miles) south-east of Christchurch city centre. 185 people from more than 20 countries were killed, making it the second deadliest natural disaster in New Zealand history.



The tour, which departs from outside the Canterbury Museum (Rolleston Ave) daily at 11:00 am, lasts approximately 90 minutes. There is a driver and onboard guide from the Canterbury Museum that does an informative commentary accompanied by video and photographs. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (0800 500 929) or from the i-SITE Visitor Centre, next to the Museum.

No tour is exactly the same as where the bus travels depends on traffic conditions and works that do. The bus may make stops were passengers can disembark with the guide.

The Rebuild Tour bus

The Rebuild Tour bus

Our tour made two stops. The first stop was at the site of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. It was the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Christchurch. The buildings were designed by architect Francis Petre and completed in 1905. The Cathedral closed following the September earthquake. The parish moved St Mary’s Pro Cathedral (373 Manchester Street).

During the February earthquake the two bells towers at the front of the building collapsed along with much of the front façade. The dome, which had received major cracking was later removed, and the rear of the Cathedral was demolished. Also during the February quake the statue of Virgin Mary located in the north tower rotated 180 degrees to look out the window. The statue became a symbol of survival following quake.

In May this year it was announced the diocese has plans to attempt to preserve the nave as part of a rebuild.


Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

The next stop was at the 185 Empty White Chairs installation on the site of the former St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Presbyterian Church on the corner of Madras and Cashel streets.

The memorial designed by artist Pete Majendie was previously located on the site of the former Oxford Terrace Baptist Church. Each white painted chair represents one of the lives lost in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The installation sits on 185 square metres of ready made lawn.


185 White Chairs

185 White Empty Chairs