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Canterbury College

20 November 2023

Once known as Canterbury College, the buildings that form the original town site of the University of Canterbury hold stories of staff and students, education and recreation, and service to community. Learn more about the history of Canterbury College.


Learning by Design: Building Canterbury College in the City 1873-1973


The buildings that form the original town site of the University of Canterbury, once known as Canterbury College, are far more than just bricks and mortar. They are no less than the building blocks of our institution, in which we may find stories of staff and students, of education and recreation, and of service to community. Although the first site of Canterbury College is no longer formally attached to the University, the buildings continue to serve the wider community as the Arts Centre, and in the hearts of many former students and staff they still represent a place where minds and lives were forever changed.

‘Learning by Design’ is a visual history of the building of Canterbury College from its humble foundation in 1873, through the College’s evolution into a University with ivy-clad cloisters, and finally to the gifting of the town site to the people of Christchurch in 1973.

The inspiration for this exhibition came from the visionary designs for many of the College buildings which may be found in the Armson Collins Architectural Drawings Collection. A project to digitize the Armson Collins Collection in 2012 has slowly illuminated a rich source of historical documents which show how much of Canterbury College was conceived and constructed.

By connecting the architectural drawings to the wealth of archives, photos, and books in the University Library’s collections, this exhibition highlights how architecture, education, and community combined to create Canterbury College.  Although the University is now at home in Ilam, the legacy of Canterbury College lives on in its graduates, in our research collections, and in the buildings of the Arts Centre.

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