Emerging Style: Modern High English Gothic

The Christchurch rebuild following the devastating earthquakes of 2011 and 2012 has been an incredible journey. Road works, orange cones and constant hammering have become part of the day-to-day lives of local Cantabrians. The huge increase in demand for engineering, architects, interior designers and contractors continues, and an immediate rift in the architectural landscape of Christchurch can be detected.

The Crossing, image credit of Rebuild Christchurch
Rendered view of the back courtyard of The Crossing, image credit of Rebuild Christchurch

Ultramodern structures such as the curvy finned Deloitte building, the Warren & Mahoney offices, and the BNZ Centre have started to grow up amid the CBD, pushing the boundaries of design. Features such as exposed steel, massive large-panels of glass & unclad cross beams dominate these new spaces. A few exciting skins have emerged on buildings such as the perforated aluminium skin on the old Carlton ButcheryCarlton Butchery at 179 Victoria Street or the soon to be released champagne-like facade in the back courtyard of The Crossing.

However, a new style has emerged that graciously gives a nod to the heritage of the history of Christchurch, and the Anglican roots which were present from early days. This new style is ultramodern in material and lines, however, takes inspiration from the silhouettes and shapes of Gothic architecture and the Neo-Gothic or Gothic Revival Architectural style.

Knox Church
Knox Church in Christchurch, Image credit of Stacy Squires of Fairfax NZ

One of my favourite examples of this emerging style is Knox Church on the corner of Victoria Street & Bealey Avenue, just within the cusp of the Christchurch CBD. The brick walls were damaged in the earthquakes, and Wilkie & Bruce Architects redesigned the facade with copper to go on the existing timber frame. The Gothic features of the gabled roof, with 3 gables on the Bealey Ave side, reflecting the Gothic architectural feature of a triple portico, high, narrow windows, along with concrete modernised buttresses give the modern building a distinctive historic feel that is extremely fitting & aesthetically superb. The use of large sheets of copper, fine detailing around the eaves and a sleek roof translate these Gothic shapes into the modern day, fitting easily alongside the ultramodern structures of Victoria Street.

Mace Building
Mace Building, Corner of South Durham & Walker Street

Another great example of this original style is the concrete building on the South corner of South Durham & Walker Street, just West of the South City shopping centre. The building’s gabled roof and sheer height gives a Gothic impression, yet the bold concrete exterior with minimalist detail and right-angled window and door details give it a distinct modern vibe.


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