West Avon Flats

279 Montreal Street And 38 Hereford Street, Christchurch

  • West Avon Flats. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Nicholas Burrowes. Taken By: Nicholas Burrowes. Date: 17/10/2007.
  • West Avon Flats. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: V E Meek. Date: 3/07/1992.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1944 Date Entered 26th November 1981


City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Secs 459, 461 Town of Christchurch (CT CB20K/455), Canterbury Land District


Constructed in 1936, the West Avon Flats building has architectural significance for its Art Deco/Moderne style and as a surviving example of architect W Melville Lawry’s work and social significance in demonstrating the type of residential development that occurred in the western part of central Christchurch between the world wars. It is a rare survivor as an early block of residential flats in Christchurch, in the context of the loss of others such as St Elmo Courts following the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010-11.

The original intention was for a building much larger in scale than what eventuated. In December 1929 the Press reported that the architect Melville Lawry was preparing plans for a six-storey block of 36 flats at the corner of Montreal and Hereford Streets for a syndicate of Christchurch businessmen. More than six years later, the foundations were laid on the site for a two-storeyed block of flats, with provision in Lawry’s design for a further two storeys if required.

Much consideration was given to how the building was constructed, especially following the catastrophic Hawke’s Bay earthquake of 1931. West Avon Flats is constructed with reinforced concrete strip footings under the perimeter and internal load bearing walls. Its concrete construction was to make the building ‘fire-proof and earthquake-proof’ and each of the eight self-contained flats within the building was designed with cavity walls to assist with sound-proofing. The style is streamlined Art Deco or Moderne. A two storeyed building with an additional penthouse on the roof, it has a symmetrical façades with bold decorative vertical and horizontal lines and steel framed casement windows. A raised parapet gives the appearance of a flat roof. The ground floor main entrance is in the centre of the east elevation, leading into a vestibule and main hall with Art Deco style staircase. The modernity of the building includes many with fixtures and fittings, including built-in furniture, in an Art Deco style.

In 1999 alterations were made to two of the apartments on the first floor, combining them into a single apartment. At the same time a sunroom addition was built on the roof, with access via a new internal staircase. The West Avon Flats building has been repaired and strengthened following damage caused in the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes. The building now houses offices.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Lawry, Wilfred Melville

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Moore and Sons

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1936 -

Structural upgrade
2015 - 2016
Seismic strengthening, repair and conversion to offices

1999 -
Modifications including addition of penthouse sunroom

Completion Date

26th January 2017

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.