Timber Flooring in the Christchurch Town Hall
Eight years after the devastating earthquake, the Christchurch Town Hall re-opened in February 2019. The Press reported that this event was – for many Cantabrians, the most significant event in the city’s recovery.
It is indeed a huge milestone.
The Town Hall is a Class A historic building, and upon opening in 1972, won the New Zealand gold medal award for architecture in 1972. It is a classic ‘form follows function’, modernist design by Warren & Mahoney Architecture, appreciated globally for its efficient layout, superb acoustics and wonderful interior design.
A significant feature of the original interior was the dramatic use of three different solid timber floors in the performing auditoriums and the main entertainment area. As a Class A heritage building the replacement flooring would be the same timbers as the original, and in the same relatively narrow 60mm floor board width.
Timbers of New Zealand supplied the new timber flooring and recycled as much of the original as possible. They installed the timber floors to the Auditorium, James Hay Theatre and Limes Room., the access stairs, stage ‘lifters’ and the associated wall paneling.
The company was recently awarded the Australasian Best Solid Timber Floor in a commercial building 2019, by the ATFA (Australasian Timber Flooring Association) in Melbourne.
The 2,500 seat main Auditiorium, surprisingly for a 1960’s New Zealand floor, showcases a Brush Box timber floor. A native to Australia, it is an extremely hard wearing and beautiful mid-colour flooring timber. While most hardwoods from Australia like Jarrah, Blue Gum & Tasmanian Oak are Eucalypts, Brush box is a large Australian rain forest tree that grows on the Coastal hills of New South Wales and Queensland. In the Australian timber trade it’s rated as one of their best flooring timbers and simply called ‘Box’.
Brush Box wood has variation in colour, ranging from blush, light greyish rose to rich red brown.
It has a fine even wood texture with a soft glow from its natural waxiness and hues of beauty that contrasts well with modern, minimalistic interiors. It has a hardness rating of 9.5 compared to New Zealand Rimu at 3.5 and European Oak at 5.5 and the interlocked wood-grain wears extremely well.
Due to the wood’s characteristics, drying and machining of Brush Box must be done with skill and precision.
Timbers of New Zealand restored (by hand) what could be salvaged of the original Brush Box T&G flooring, enough to reinstate the terraced seating areas of the Auditorium.
The flat central floor, the stage, the access stairs and paneling required new Brush Box flooring.
The Limes room, the Town Hall’s entertainment space reaching out over the sparkling Avon River houses a spectacular Jarrah Parquet floor in a mesmerizing herringbone pattern.
Against floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, the result is a mirage of warmth, excitement and reflected light, a striking composition that complements the bold, modernist Town Hall architecture.
The James Hay Theatre, the second Auditorium, holding 1,000 seats is floored in Heart Rimu.
Rimu, New Zealand’s best known native timber, is a sumptuous, rich red-brown figured timber.
Its use has been ubiquitous in New Zealand’s built heritage up until the early 1990’s when the
Government transferred most of its native production forests into the DOC conservation estate and required all private forests to be sustainably harvested, which had the impact of restricting supply.
Although not a very hard timber, the original 40 year old Rimu floor in the James Hay Theatre was in reasonable condition but unfortunately, due to the damage during uplift, and all the nails it could not be re-instated.
Timbers of New Zealand sourced the Brush Box timber from Queensland, the Jarrah from Western Australia and the Heart Rimu from Westland, New Zealand.
Due to the large size of the floor areas, a year’s lead time was required to mill and dry the quantity required. The installation and finishing of the three areas required careful selection, drying and machining of timber, skillful installation and good collaboration with Hawkins the head builder.
To celebrate the winning of the Australasian Best Solid Timber Floor Award, Timbers of New Zealand are offering specials on Brush Box flooring (in engineered and solid options), and on solid native Rimu flooring.