Concept Design

More than a building – Concept Design for Christ Church Cathedral brings vision and reality

The Concept Design and overarching vision for the reinstatement of Christ Church Cathedral provides the first public glimpse into the future reality of the city’s heritage and community centrepiece. 

The Concept Design details the plan for the reinstated Cathedral and its supporting buildings that will make up the ‘Cathedral Quarter’.

The Cathedral remains the hero of the vision, supported by modern buildings that both contrast and complement it in terms of aesthetics and function.

To the north of the Cathedral will be the new Cathedral Visitors’ Centre. On the ground level will be a café, with terraced steps leading down to a lowered, landscaped courtyard and museum and retail.

To the south will be the ‘Cathedral Centre’ providing much-needed gathering spaces, offices and amenities. Both are designed to incorporate glass and timber textures to promote light and create a visual connection to the Square.

The projected cost is $154.3 million and the fundraising target is $51.2million.


Concept design questions and answers


What are the key changes to the Cathedral?

  • Small changes will make the western porch more open and welcoming, while retaining the design and original materials where possible. It will be slightly deeper so it can accommodate more people.   Adding a skylight and deeper windows will allow in more natural light.
  • The new vestries, (replacing the 1960s versions), will be built in the same palate of materials as the Cathedral itself, matching the Cathedral roof form.
  • The north vestry will be a first-class rehearsal and library space for the Cathedral Choirs. It will include separate changing area for the new Girls’ Choir.
  • The south vestry will will provide space for clergy, vergers and servers to assemble and robe before services, with the first floor reserved as the plant room.
  • The plan is for the organ to be removed, overhauled and reconfigured to improve its performance.
  • The reinstated Cathedral will be more adaptable internally for various sized groups and activities. The overall seating configuration will be more flexible, either radial or linear.  We plan for a section of the Crossing floor to be able to be raised or lowered to improve visual connection depending on the kind of service or event.
  • Modern, efficient underfloor heating will make the Cathedral more comfortable.
  • The much-loved Tower will be rebuilt in its original position and be very similar in outward appearance to its predecessor. It will be base isolated to achieve the required seismic standard.  It will have a working belfry, and the stairs and lift will provide access to the belfry, viewing platform and the lower courtyard to the north.
  • A new Visitors’ Centre will be located to the north comprising a café on ground level, and retail and museum space below ground, opening into a lowered courtyard.
  • The museum will provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the history of the Cathedral, to engage with artefacts, and purchase mementoes at the gift shop.


Why are new buildings needed?

  • Before the earthquakes, elements of the Cathedral were not functioning well. This is an opportunity to ensure the reinstated Cathedral functions well and with flexibility into the future. The new buildings are key to this.
  • The basic footprint of the Cathedral has been retained for cost and heritage reasons and new buildings will provide the extra functionality that’s needed.


How does the Concept Design benefit the wider city?

  • The improved aesthetics of the overall Cathedral Quarter will be a point of pride for our city, that connects the past with the present and the future.
  • We believe a vibrant, functioning Cathedral Quarter will stimulate social, economic and tourism to the Square and wider central city.
  • The landscaping will greatly enhance Cathedral Square as a welcoming social and gathering space and makes a generous contribution to the surrounding public realm.
  • The reinstatement of the Cathedral and creation of the Cathedral Quarter is positive for the regeneration of Christchurch overall.
  • The Cathedral Quarter will augment the wider environment, bringing vibrancy to Cathedral Square, complementing both the modern architecture of nearby Tūranga and Te Pae (Convention Centre), while ensuring the heritage Cathedral remains a prominent city heritage amenity.


What are the benefits of the Visitors’ Centre, (lower courtyard, café and retail/museum spaces to the north)?

  • The café will sit at ground level and provide an aesthetically-pleasing gathering space.
  • The lowered courtyard is a landscaped space out of the easterly and southerly winds, and allows the Cathedral to remain the focal point of the Cathedral Quarter.
  • The retail and museum spaces will provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the Cathedral, engage with its story-telling and artefacts, and purchase mementoes at the gift shop. It’s envisaged the tours of the Cathedral and the Tower will embark from this space.
  • The stair access to the lowered courtyard provides for unique seated civic plaza space.


What are the benefits of the Cathedral Centre (to the south)?

  • The bottom floor contains the gathering space for use after services, toilet facilities, and accessible meeting rooms. It is designed to be a welcoming place for use by the Cathedral  community  and the wider community.
  • Manaakitanga (hospitality) is an important part of Anglican worship. The new gathering space will have a catering kitchen, which can also be used to operate a soup kitchen to support the community.

The top floor is sized for a small number of Cathedral staff who are essential for a well-functioning Cathedral.