Garden City Deco

Documenting Christchurch's Art Deco architectural heritage.

Goodbye, Your Majesty

They fought to save it but another Christchurch deco theatre bites the dust. Sigh.

Photos taken by me 18 May.

Majestic Theatre demolition from the Lichfield-Manchester corner.

Majestic Theatre demolition from the Lichfield-Manchester corner.

Art deco features nibbled into non-existence.

Art deco features on the front of The Majestic nibbled into non-existence.

Theatre interior exposed during demolition

Theatre interior exposed during demolition

Sad face indeed.

Sad face indeed.


Going soon – The Majestic Theatre

Slated for demolition – The Majestic Theatre, Lichfield/Manchester St corner (image by BeckerFraserPhotos)

When I started this blog it was partly as a way of documenting the  remaining Art Deco buildings in Christchurch before more of them succumbed to the wreckers ball. And so it is with the Majestic Theatre on Manchester Street which, despite the efforts of heritage campaigners, looks as if it too will be demolished.

The Majestic Theatre was built in 1930 by John Fuller and Sons Ltd, was designed by Alan Manson of the firm of S & A Luttrell (Sidney and Alfred) and it features some lovely Art Deco elements.

Ruth Helm in her PhD thesis, ‘The Architecture of Cecil Wood’ describes the decorative elements that feature on the Majestic in a discussion of the Māori motifs found on the later, Wood-designed State Insurance Building:

“…Maori motifs had appeared on the exterior of at least one other Christchurch public building, the Majestic Theatre designed by Alan Manson (1930), where the similarity between Maori and Art Deco motifs was exploited for the ornamentation of the pier caps which combines stylised fern fronds, palmettes, scallops, flutings, wave motifs and zig zags.” (Helm, 1996, pg 237)

Traditional Māori motif, the koru, meets Art Deco on The Majestic Theatre exterior (image from Canterbury Heritage).

Originally a theatre that could accommodate over 1600 people, and later a night club, at the time of the earthquakes it functioned as The Majestic Church.

For  more see:

The good ship Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, 169 Victoria StBuilt in 1938, ‘Santa Barbara’ is a two-storeyed building designed by H. Francis Willis. Though it may have originally been built as a dwelling, in the now commercial setting of Victoria Street it functions as a women’s clothing outlet (though it has had former lives as a beauty parlour and wine shop, and has housed advertising agencies, opticians and accountants).

‘Santa Barbara’ epitomises the Streamline Moderne style that saw buildings echo the design of the cruise ships of the era. Read more of this post

Lost Deco – Cinema supermarket

CenturySupervalue just prior to demolition

Edgeware Supervalue demolition photos 001 (Kete Site Admin) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Canterbury’s earthquakes have claimed a number of Art Deco buildings, and one of these was Century SuperValue, which started its life as a movie theatre.

The Century Cinema in the suburb of Edgeware was opened on 23 September 1940. It was designed by Wilford Melville Lawry, a local architect who had earlier been responsible for the West Avon apartments. The Century wasn’t his first Art Deco style cinema, as he’d designed Hokitika’s Regent Theatre in 1935.

The Century was built by Messrs B.  Thompson & Sons and originally had a one level “stadium” lay out that could accommodate an audience 585 strong. Read more of this post

Indigenous Deco – The State Insurance Building

State Insurance Building, 116 Worcester StThe Art Deco style was known for its use of what were thought of as “exotic” motifs from “non-western” cultures. Egyptian imagery was popular, as were African and Middle Eastern themes. Mesoamerican architectural influence from Aztec and Mayan cultures were also popular (think ziggurats).

In New Zealand some local architects chose to incorporate Māori imagery and there’s not better example of this than in the State Insurance Building at 116 Worcester St by Cecil W Wood.

Before the quakes this building housed the Design and Arts College of New Zealand as well as the Kaplan International English school but was originally the State Insurance Building. It was completed in 1935 and from a distance looks relatively plain. Once closer to the building a lot of decoration is visible and most of it draws on traditional Māori carving. Read more of this post

West Avon Apartments

West Avon entranceLocated on the southwest corner of Montreal and Hereford Streets, the West Avon apartments stand out like the bright day-glo treat in a box of otherwise sensible cereal.

To the east they are dwarfed by the highrise Christchurch City Council (formerly the NZ Post building), to the west by the much more “serious” and historically significant neo-gothic Arts Centre. At one time the West Avon apartments had a sorbet-coloured ally in the St Elmo Courts on its opposite corner but wrecking balls put paid to that. Read more of this post

Hereford Street Bridge

Hereford St BridgeThe current Hereford St was opened in 1938 and replaced the original timber bridge which had been in place since 1875. It was built from reinforced concrete and was of a “rigid frame” or “square arch” design.

At 66 feet it was significantly wider than the original bridge which only measured 34 feet in width. Read more of this post

New City Hotel

New City Hotel, 527-533 Colombo StThe New City Hotel is the only “old” hotel left in central Christchurch and unfortunately it is a touch rundown and has been for some time. I’d go as far as to say that it has a rather “dodgy” reputation.

It was built in around 1930, and came through the earthquakes well. It is now due for refurbishment and repair  having received $140,000 funding from the Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Buildings Fund as it’s a Category II registered building with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

It will be good to see it gain a little glamour back and I hope to be able to take more photos afterwards to show the changes.

But here’s what the old girl is looking like at the moment. Read more of this post

The search for the Holy Grail

There’s nothing so disappointing in post-quake Christchurch as realising that a splendid building that you had affection for has been demolished before you had a chance to take some pictures of it and bid it a fond farewell.

Such was the case with The Holy Grail sports bar which started its life as the Avon Theatre. After its life as a cinema ceased it was used as a place of worship by the Pentecostal church. It later stood empty for around 11 years before being refurbished by Carcassonne Properties in 2000. They restored the facade and as much of the interior as possible and retained several of the original features.

More on the history of the building from the Historic Places Trust: Read more of this post