Registry Building (Former)

Arts Centre Of Christchurch, Christchurch

  • Registry Building (Former), Arts Centre, Christchurch. Image courtesy of the Arts Centre.
    Copyright: The Arts Centre. Date: 1/07/2013.
  • Registry Building (Former), Arts Centre, Christchurch. Image courtesy of the Arts Centre.
    Copyright: The Arts Centre. Date: 15/03/2017.
  • Registry Building (Former), Arts Centre, Christchurch.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/02/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7373 Date Entered 13th February 1997 Date of Effect 13th February 1997


City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

part of Town Sec 419 & 421, City of Christchurch

Location description

Located on the corner of Montreal Street and Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch.


The Registry building was erected in 1916 to house the administration staff of Canterbury College. Before then the administration staff worked in the Clock Tower building. The building, on the corner of Montreal and Worcester Streets was designed by the architectural firm, Collins and Harman. In style it is broadly Gothic, and therefore is visually connected to the other older, stone buildings of the University. However, the Registry building has less decorative features than the others, which can be read in two ways. Firstly that the Gothic Revival was waning by the time of World War I, or alternatively that the lack of decorative features reflects the utilitarian role of this building. A small extension was added to the northwest in 1926, in a similar style to the original building. Later additions were made in 1957 and 1965 Of the first of these, Canta, the student newspaper, commented that it was 'something between a pumping station, the Waipipi Ladies' Rest Room and the offices of the Karangahape Rabbit Board'.

When the University completed their move to the suburb of Ilam in the early 1970s this building was threatened with demolition. The University planned to sell off those buildings at the eastern end of the block (including the Registry building) in order to be able to fund the preservation of the rest, which were seen as more historically significant. A number of organisations protested against this plan, including the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga, and in 1974 a feasibility study on the use of the entire block as an Arts Centre was completed. This study proposed that the Registry building be leased as rooms for medical or legal practices. The idea of preserving the entire complex was accepted and The Arts Centre of Christchurch Trust was formally established in December 1978. Since then the former Registry building has inhabited by the Family Planning Association.

The former Registry building is significant as part of the previous University of Canterbury complex, now the Arts Centre. Although simplified in design it relates to the Gothic style of the other earlier stone buildings. Registries play an important, if often unacknowledged, role within the life of any university and therefore this building is significant as part of the history of the University of Canterbury. The building is also associated with George Mason, the registrar who inaugurated a significant policy of building expansion during the First World War, and his insistence on a separate building for the administration staff means that this building can be viewed as an expression of his administrative power.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Collins & Harman

One of the two oldest architectural firms in New Zealand, Armson, Collins and Harman was established by William Barnett Armson in 1870. After serving his articles with Armson, John James Collins (1855-1933) bought the practice after the former's death in 1883 and subsequently took Richard Dacre Harman (1859-1927) into partnership four years later. Collins' son, John Goddard Collins (1886-1973), joined the firm in 1903. Armson, Collins and Harman was one of Christchurch's leading architectural practices in the early years of this century.

Notable examples of the firm's work include the Christchurch Press Building (1909), Nazareth House (1909), the former Canterbury College Students Union (1927), the Nurses Memorial Chapel at Christchurch Public Hospital (1927) and the Sign of the Takahe (1936). Their domestic work includes Blue Cliffs Station Homestead (1889) and Meadowbank Homestead, Irwell. In 1928 the firm's name was simplified to Collins and Harman and the firm continues today as Collins Architects Ltd.

With a versatility and competence that betrayed the practice's debt to Armson's skill and professionalism, Collins and Harman designed a wide variety of building types in a range of styles.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1916 -

1926 -

Completion Date

23rd October 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Christchurch Star

Christchurch Star

5 May 1973

Strange, 1994

Glyn Strange, The Arts Centre of Christchurch, Then and Now, Christchurch, 1994

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.