Christchurch always had its dullness challenge, but there were just enough interesting bits to allay that nagging feeling that really you had to get out of here...
Well I left and came back - a few times actually - and for good reasons. The city also changed enormously for me a lot as soon as we got a proper art gallery (footnote: this was even before I worked here!).
A few weeks ago I was in Cathedral Square and started to scratch my head a bit when I saw the Avon Theatre being dismantled. What? That can't be happening! It surprised me to realise that I'd not heard about this from anywhere. Surely this wasn't happening – maybe they were fixing something. They had to be able to save this place. But another more recent visit confirms the worst. Like so many other good bits from here, it'll be gone with barely a whimper.
Never mind that the Avon Theatre, 86-88 Worcester Street, Christchurch was on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Register, and with a Historic Place Category 2 listing...
And never mind that their website reports:
'This Art Deco theatre was built in 1934. It was designed by L.E. Williams, a Wellington-based architect who specialised in cinemas. At the time of its opening the building was seen as the most lavish of J. C. Williamson's numerous picture theatres in New Zealand and the newspaper reports on its opening commented enthusiastically about the cinema's acoustics, chromium-plated balustrades and the lighting display. Built three years after the Napier earthquake, the Avon Theatre was constructed to meet new national building standards. Recently the interior of the former theatre has been signifcantly altered and it reopened as a sports bar.
The former Avon Theatre is significant as an early Art Deco building in Christchurch and as part of the history of New Zealand picture theatres.'
Just a short walk down the road is another place that made Christchurch personally enjoyable.
West Avon at 279 Montreal Street was built in 1930. Canterbury Heritage blog spot reports that it was designed by Wilford Melville Lawry (1894-1980), who was responsible for a good number of excellent Art Deco buildings in Christchurch and the West Coast.
It's often referred to as 'the Licorice Allsort building'. I also happened to live here for a number of years in the 80s and 90s, often with friends living in other flats. For some reason it attracted a high proportion of tenants who were artists, architects, filmmakers, designers...
It is a great piece of Christchurch and was a great place to live, a robust building with character and history, that was also an integral part of the fabric of this particular neighbourhood. Having been originally intended as impressively modern, stylish accommodation for Canterbury College (later University of Canterbury) staff, it also holds strong connections to the Christchurch Arts Centre.
Post-quakes, the place is empty and locked. I note, however, that very recently the wire fences have come down. It has a few visible cracks - no surprise there - but local knowledge says it could readily be saved. I understand that the Council's heritage team are working with the owners to consider future options for this building. Let's hope there is a positive future for this Art Deco gem.