Otagon Live (former Trinity Congregational Church)
A flyer handed over by Alan Slade from the Slade Family Trust which owns the former Trinity Congregational Church in central Christchurch has a succinct heading – ‘Bugger! But we’re coming back’.
The Category I-registered former church, built in Worcester Street between 1873 and 1875, has more recently been known to many Cantabrians and visitors as Octagon Live – a restaurant, music and entertainment venue that had the good fortune of a historic ambience that set it apart from its competitors.
Unfortunately the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 severely damaged the building, to the point where the church tower collapsed and the adjoining Parish Hall building needed to be demolished following the 22 February earthquake. There is also damage and partial collapse to the exterior stonework.
While the news is grim on the exterior, it’s a different story inside the former church as Alan explains.
“The timber interior, to most people who visit, is the wow factor when they walk into the Trinity. The tower went down, the stone walls are very badly fractured but the interior is intact.
“Our heritage objective at the moment is to save and fully restore the interior of the building. It can definitely be saved, but it’s dependent on money. The owners are a family trust and we haven’t got replacement insurance, so we’re short of funds insurance-wise.”
That the interior has survived the earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks so well is due to earthquake strengthening undertaken by a previous owner more than 30 years ago.
“The State Insurance Company did quake strengthening in the mid-1970s with a modern concrete inner, giving the building a reinforced concrete skin, like a bunker,” Alan says.
The 1871 pipe organ – believed to be one of only three of its kind in the world today – suffered damage to about one-third of it when the back wall, which wasn’t strengthened, collapsed onto it. Its restoration will ensure it is a focal point for the Slade Family Trust’s plans for the building.
“The objective is to restore the organ,” Alan says. “We’re also into music and the acoustics here are too wonderful to describe. We will turn the main hall into a community theatre for arts.”
To do that, Alan says, modern, reinforced concrete walls are planned to support the roof – and to 100 percent of earthquake-compliant code. Current proposed architectural plans allow for replacing the demolished Parish Hall and original tower with state of the art buildings that will be carbon-neutral. New additions will include a technology centre and music, film and rehearsal studios.
“I think it’s nice to save heritage and introduce the latest technology. We have a four year timeframe. It will be such a strong statement in an area that’s desolate.”
Read more about the former Trinity Congregational Church (Octagon Live) on the Register Online.