The former Municipal Chambers building on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Boulevard was officially opened as Our City O-Tautahi in July 2002 - a return, after almost 80 years, to civic use.
It is most appropriate that a centre which considers the city's past, present and future is to be housed in this building and on this site.
Following the Canterbury Association's decision in January 1851 to make Christchurch the capital of the province, the association erected its timber Land Transfer Office on Reserve 10, very close to the former Municipal Chambers. Thus it was from this site that the European beginnings of the settlement of Christchurch began. In 1868 Reserve 10 was transferred and vested in the mayor, councillors and citizens of Christchurch in trust as a site for a public building.
By 1879 the Council had decided that the Land Office was too cramped to serve as Council offices and announced a competition for a civic complex, comprising a new Municipal Chambers and a Town Hall, on the Market Place (now Victoria Square). The Council abandoned the project as all the competition entries were too expensive. By 1885 action had to be taken and the Council advertised another competition solely for the design of new Municipal Chambers. These were to be on a site at the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Street, close to the old Land Office - Reserve 10. The selection in December 1885 of architect Samuel Hurst Seager's competition entry for the proposed Christchurch Municipal Chambers provoked a storm of controversy in the city. Submitted under the motto "Design with Beauty: Build with Truth", the Queen Anne design was unlike any other building in a city dominated by the conventional Gothic and Renaissance Revival style.
Despite the controversy Seager's design was built and the Municipal Chambers opened in March 1887. The building functioned as the centre of local government until 1924 when the City Council moved into new premises in Manchester Street. In 1922 the Christchurch Municipal Offices Leasing Act was passed to allow the leasing of Reserve 10, on which the building stood. The lease of the building was subsequently taken over by the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce, which occupied the building until 1987. Part of the space was sub-leased to the Canterbury Promotion Council, now known as Christchurch and Canterbury Marketing, which occupied the building until October 2000.
The heritage significance of the building has long been recognised. Registered at a national level by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga in 1985. It has also been listed by the City Council for more than 20 years. The new use will ensure that the heritage significance of the building and its internal spaces is retained and spaces, such as the former Council Debating Chamber, will again echo to the sounds of public debate.
Read more about the history of this building.
Read more about the history of Council offices.