Heritage remains strong in the restoration of an iconic space.

The Christchurch earthquakes left Victoria Square, an important central city green space, in poor condition, unable to meet the current and future needs of the community and visitors.

As lead designers for the project, our landscape architects worked on a restoration plan with Otākaro Limited, the company responsible for delivering Crown-led anchor projects in the Christchurch rebuild. The upgraded square needed to retain the treasured qualities and character of this key public space whilst still allowing for improvements and access to the adjacent Otākaro Avon River.

Heritage features remain in their existing locations, preserving connections to the past. These include the Queen Victoria and Captain Cook statues, and the Floral Clock. The Bowker Fountain, Australasia’s first fountain to be illuminated by electricity, was fully restored.

The square’s flowing, soft, green character is a counterpoint to that of the more urban Cathedral Square, and this defining characteristic is celebrated through the restoration plan.



Project team

Claire Kelly
Corey Murray

Worked with

Ian Bowman
H2O Engineering

Project date

2017 - 2015


Finalist | Ngā Aho Award | Best of Awards - Designer's Institute of New Zealand (DINZ)

Restoration works include the installation of high quality paving and seating walls, site furniture and lighting improvements. Construction of a punt stop/Tauranga waka, provides a landing point for ever-popular punting activity on the Otākaro Avon River, and encourages private vessels to use the waterway once again. Restoration works provide a safer and more accessible environment, and this much-loved green space will continue serving the people of Christchurch for decades to come.

Ngāi Tūāhuriri provided input into all stages of the process. Their influence is felt throughout the square’s design, and visible through integrated artworks and interventions conceived and delivered by Ngāi Tahu artists, including:

Ngā Whāriki
Part of the city-wide series, three woven mats greet visitors with stories of people and place (Mahinga Kai, Tai Waiora and Ngā Pou Riri e Iwa; the nine tall trees of the Ngāi Tahu claim).

Literary Trail Pieces / Pepeha
An extract from Kemps Deed (1848) addresses Queen Victoria, reflecting the whakatauki that underpins Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu:

Ko ō mātou kāinga nohoanga,
ko ā mātou mahinga kai,
me waiho mārie mō ā mātou tamariki,
mō muri iho i a mātou.

The Deal (Fiona Farrell, 2015), references early interaction between Ngāi Tahu and settlers:
In the Market Place
They traded leaves for a song,
Solid ground for a fistful of water.

Mana Motuhake
Mana Motuhake (Fayne Robinson, 2019) acknowledges Ngāi Tūāhuriri standing in this place while flanking Queen Victoria in support.

Parerau (Jennifer Rendell, 2018) acknowledges the co-existence of Ngāi Tahu and Pakeha history, brought together by the natural environment.

Kanakana Table
A new place for sharing kai adjacent to the tauranga waka, Te Ahi Kaa and a significant Tī Kouka. The table (Keri Whaitiri) features a kanakana (southern lamprey) and integrates a karakia mō te kai (blessing for food).

Te Ahi Kaa
With the blessing of master carver, Riki Manuel, the 6m high totara poupou created for the 1990 Treaty commemorations has been fully restored and provided a more appropriate setting.

More than an exercise in dropping ‘cultural art’ into a European square, we sought a collective expression of who we are in Ōtautahi Christchurch, through thoughtful spatial design, materiality and meaning.