Historic Places Canterbury Submission to Regenerate Christchurch Re: “Draft concept and key moves for the Square and surrounding area”






Historic Places Canterbury Submission to:

Regenerate Christchurch:
“Draft concept and key moves for the Square and surrounding area”


Heritage buildings and sites often change through generations and in the way they are used and function that often differs from their original intention.

Heritage organisations and individuals acknowledge these changes occur and that heritage building and sites can accommodate change by using appropriate “Adaptive reuse principles,” to keep them vibrant and relevant to their time and circumstance.

Historic Places Canterbury is encouraging of designs that seek to make the Cathedral Square vibrant and relevant to a post “quake” Christchurch.  Any re-design of Cathedral Square however must be respectful of its heritage status under the District Plan (Scheduled as “Highly Significant”) and acknowledge in its layout and new additions its past functions and shape that made it a premier civic space and transport hub.

Historic Places Canterbury cannot support the Draft Concept as proposed by Regenerate  Christchurch as we deem it to be deeply un-sympathetic with an inappropriateness that borders on being  disrespectful of Cathedral Square’s heritage. Indeed Regenerate Christchurch ignores and fails to mention the protected status of Cathedral Square and its history.  Some Christchurch residents might conclude that Regenerate Christchurch is being negligent in its actions and could question the sincerity of its Engagement for such an omission.  Historic Places Canterbury wishes to be positive but feels obliged to draw Regenerate Christchurch’s attention to this possibility.

Historic Places Canterbury requests that Regenerate Christchurch drastically change this proposed Draft Concept and work on a redesign that acknowledges Cathedral Square’s unique past and its heritage status. Adaptive reuse is appropriate but not at the expense of its history.

Historic Places Canterbury respectfully requests that Regenerate Christchurch use the adaptive reuse of the “Old Government Building” as an inspiration example of the type of successful design that is required for Cathedral Square.

The Heritage Christchurch Hotel in what is known as Old Government Buildings is a good example of adaptive reuse where the original function of the building as Government Offices has been sympathetically repurposed for use as a hotel, apartments, commercial office and bar and Restaurant.  This adaptive reuse has retained the original heritage features that made this heritage building worthy of protection but allowed it to be used as a thriving commercial space that contributes positively to Cathedral Square.


Specific Comments on:

“Draft concept and key moves for the Square and surrounding area”










Note the answer to tick the box question is: No I don’t like this idea.


The proposed concept does not acknowledge or accommodate the heritage protection accorded to Cathedral Square and its surroundings in the District Plan. Cathedral Square is listed as “Highly Significant”. This heritage protection and related features are not part of the concept design or acknowledged in the “Engagement” literature.

Historic Places Canterbury objects to these omissions and seeks a complete redesign of the Draft Concept that accommodates the protected heritage and features and objects within Cathedral Square including the cruciform shape. The Draft Concept design should include references that signal Cathedral Square’s rich social past and any introduced objects should be sympathetic and not be an ad hoc addition.

Historic Places Canterbury notes Regenerate Christchurch does not attempt to explain or detail how Cathedral Square’s heritage protection and heritage objects are accommodated within the Draft Concept which means it implicitly acknowledges the Draft Concept is non-compliant with the District Plan.


Historic Places Canterbury considers that unprotected features such as the roads are a reflection of Cathedral Square’s heritage as a transport hub and that the removal of these and or conversion to an undefined “Shared Space” are an unwanted obliteration of the history of this unique civic space. Historic Places Canterbury considers the design as laid out in the Draft Concept to be impractical for the businesses trading currently and an impediment to future hotel development.

Historic Places Canterbury requests that at minimum the design reflects and reinforces the protection of heritage and objects within it, that are deemed by the Christchurch City Council (C.C.C.) to be worthy of protection including the cruciform shape of Cathedral Square.

If Regenerate Christchurch is to proceed with this Draft Concept, then Historic Places Canterbury requests the Engagement be restarted as a meaningful Consultation and include an explanation of which legislative Act(s) Regenerate Christchurch will use to bypass the protections accorded to heritage protected Cathedral Square and the heritage objects within under the RMA.

The following is an example of an extract taken from the online C.C.C. District Plan:


“The Square has architectural and aesthetic significance as an urban space with a cruciform shape that historically defines the centre of the city.”  P168


Historic Places Canterbury requests that Regenerate Christchurch recognise that the Government and its agencies have in the past recognised the heritage of Cathedral Square and ensures the Draft Concept and subsequent plans and the subsequent Strategy and Regeneration Plan reflect the Government’s intention.  Historic Places Canterbury considers it is feasible to produce a Draft Concept that accommodates and protects Cathedral’s Square heritage and Regenerate Christchurch, as a hybrid crown entity with half its Board appointed by the Crown should, as a priority, reflect the Crown’s intentions. As an example, Historic Places Canterbury notes the Crown Agencies have acknowledged the importance of retaining the Cruciform shape of Cathedral Square.



OBJECTIVE: Ensure buildings around The Square continue to define its characteristic cruciform shape.” P186

Ko te Hōtaka Haumanu e aro ana ki Ngā Whare me Ngā Wāhi Tuku Iho

“Project 1: Retaining heritage buildings and places
Ensure that collaboration between partner agencies encourages and enables building owners to retain heritage buildings and places, where feasible.”

Historic Places Canterbury requests that the in the past

Historic Places Canterbury finds that Regenerate Christchurch in this Draft Concept is not compliant with the Ministry of Environment’s

New Zealand Urban Design Protocol :3 Key urban design qualities - The seven Cs”
    (Relevant Extracts from Protocols)


  • “celebrates cultural identity and recognises the heritage values of a place”


“Quality urban design reflects and enhances the distinctive character and culture of our urban environment, and recognises that character is dynamic and evolving, not static. It ensures new buildings and spaces are unique, are appropriate to their location and compliment their historic identity, adding value to our towns and cities by increasing tourism, investment and community pride.

Quality urban design:

  • reflects the unique identity of each town, city and neighbourhood and strengthens the positive characteristics that make each place distinctive
  • protects and manages our heritage, including buildings, places and landscapes”

Specifically Historic Places Canterbury does not consider the following in the Draft Concept are compliant with the Urban Design Protocols and as such are detrimental to the unique listed and unlisted heritage of Cathedral Square and the objects within.

  • The removal of the heritage cruciform shape which also removes Cathedral Square heritage as a civic space
  • The conversion of the roads to an indistinct “shared space” is impractical for servicing current and future businesses (especially coaches, shuttles, taxis, parking and servicing hotel quests). It negates any distinctive feature that illustrates Cathedral Square’s history as a transport hub.
  • The relocation of the heritage listed Cenotaph without giving a reason justifying its shift. This is mystifying.
  • With its lack of distinct shape, suggesting it is a later addition almost as an afterthought, the Cathedral Garden has the appearance of not reinforcing Cathedral Square’s cruciform shape. The garden seems designed to obfuscate the original Cathedral Square’s history as a Transport Hub and premier Civic Space.
  • The Garden with it placement up to the classical entrance of the OGB and Heritage Christchurch counters the sense of arrival that is an intrinsic experience of this protected heritage building.(Such an approach is in contravention of the principles outlined above.)
  • Historic Places Canterbury notes the avowed intention of introducing a wetland (James Lunday verbal presentation to the Christchurch City Councillors) with naturalised streams which introduces an element that may satisfy a design whim but will introduce a design element, that will by necessity be a manufactured artificial quote of our environmental past as perceived by an Urban Designer. One safely assumes the cost of infrastructure to support such naturalised streams will be substantial as well as the ongoing maintenance costs. Christchurch has unfortunate experiences with water features collecting rubbish and with the excrement left by the ducks.
  • The Garden by its shape can be assumed has been introduced as a counter to the cruciform and road pattern. Such an approach is not compliant with the urban design or heritage values Cathedral Square exhibits.
  • Christchurch Cathedral has a distinct boundary as private landowner and the Garden attempts to destroy this distinctive heritage identity.
  • Historic Places notes we have a significant adjacent green space the award winning Victoria Square, as well the River Precinct,  Botanical Gardens, Margaret Mahey Playground, Latimer Square and interesting spaces like the one next to the Piano Building or the area surrounding the Edmonds Band Rotunda (accessible by the Blueprint yet to be announced award winning new bridge design) all  of which strongly  suggests we have more than enough green spaces without having need to add another.
  • Introduction of new buildings (described as temporary). These buildings are a direct imposition deliberately designed to break up the heritage Civic Space.  Historic Places Canterbury considers this to be totally inappropriate.  The buildings as envisaged will intrude on the vista of the Cathedral as you enter the Cathedral Square and reduces its prominence by obscuring it. Historic Places Canterbury has no objections to obvious temporary structures that are transparent like scaffolding or temporary marques for events and occasions.
  • The buildings are an imposition on the Public Speakers Space used by such notables as Christchurch’s own Wizard. If Regenerate Christchurch wants Cathedral Square to attract people then Historic Places Canterbury is perplexed why they would destroy the special social space used by the Wizard, the Birdman and the Bible Lady who established themselves in Christchurch’s social history- and which could attract new “civic characters” in the future.

Additional Comments:

Historic Places Canterbury is concerned that this Draft Concept presents Christchurch residents with but one choice.

Historic Places Canterbury considers the take it or leave it of one option is not acceptable and Regenerate Christchurch should present more than one concept.  In Design there is always more than one design solution and presenting more than one Draft Concept ensures Christchurch Residents can then make an informed choice of their own and not rely on the choice decided on their behalf by the Regenerate Urban Designers.

Cathedral Square- the Businesses at its Edge:

Regenerate Christchurch has not given an indication of the type of businesses it envisages populating on Cathedral Squares edges. Historic Places Canterbury notes there are already two functioning hotels, Heritage Christchurch and Novotel ,  with one existing building being made ready for a third hotel, an apartment building being advertised and the OGB  Bar and Restaurant as new post-quake business trading.  In the past Cathedral Square has hosted hotels and it is feasible it could become one of Christchurch’s accommodation hubs.

Historic Places Canterbury notes that hotels require room in front for al fresco dining, a drop off valet area for parking and unloading of guest cars. Hotels require room for Coaches, shuttle buses and taxis to park and turn and allow passengers to disembark and luggage to be collected by hotel staff.  These activities occur throughout the day and are especially busy for the check in and checkout times.

Historic Places Canterbury considers the conversion of the existing roads to a “Shared Space” will generate problems with parking.  The existing and future business owners needs must be accommodated and allow the Coach Tour Buses to park and turn: the Square with a defined service road, is the best option.

Hotels were a feature of Cathedral Square and will be a prominent part of its reinvigorated future.


Historic Places Canterbury considers preparing plans that are sympathetic and are a insightful adaptive reuse of Cathedral Square Heritage combined with appropriate new elements will remake Christchurch’s premier civic space. Historic Places Canterbury requests that Regenerate Christchurch further consult and listen, go back to the drawing board, the pencils and paper, and CAD screen and produce a great design that is truly deserving of what is Christchurch’s premier civic space, Cathedral Square.


Mark Gerrard
Chair Historic Places Canterbury
PO Box 693
Christchurch 8140

Comments are closed.