The Christchurch Town Hall rebuild has been a journey of epic proportions and Sir Bob Parker has been there from the beginning. We caught up him about their shared journey together.
The Town Hall has recently reopened after being severely damaged in the February 2011 earthquake. You were the Mayor at the time and started the steps to save the historical building. Why was there so much, not only council effort, but community effort to refurbish this structure?
From the time it opened in 1972, with the design by Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney, the community has felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. It was and is again today a beautiful location to enjoy a performance of any kind. Just about everyone around Canterbury and beyond have a memory around a time they have attended or visited the Town Hall.
From the beginning this hall was a building for the people and it has been referred to as the ‘cathedral for the people’. The designers, Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney, developed a showcase piece of architecture, which provides a thread for our community.
You mentioned you have a long personal history with this building, how so?
I remember the time when the Town Hall was only an idea; a sketch. I was a teenager and my parents were behind the community fundraising efforts to build the hall. People could buy bricks and that money was donated to the build fund. It was the community who fundraised the beautiful Reiger organ which graces the hall.
The Town Hall has gained an international reputation, why do you think that is?
Yes, it has. It has become referred to as one of the top five auditoriums in the world for its acoustics which were created by Sir Harold Marshall, who has become known around the world for designing auditoriums with the best results. Artists who perform there rave about the acoustics.
With the halls reopening, we are so pleased that the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra will now have a place to call home where they can practice and perform.
A quick story is that I was passing through Christchurch Airport and a gentleman introduced himself. It was Harold Marshall. He was on his way to Paris to discuss the acoustics for a new building they were designing and that was because of the reviews of the acoustics in the Town Hall.
Was it always the plan to save the Town Hall?
During my time as Mayor, my councillors and I approved the steps to save the hall. When I left office, as with any council transition, others had different ideas and goals. The Town Hall was re-evaluated and questioned whether to save it or not. Thankfully the new council recognised that we’d made the correct decision, changed their minds, reaffirmed our call, and the refurbish journey began. It was a collective effort of so many and I personally am so appreciative of the outcome. The Town Hall is a Christchurch icon.