Canterbury College

Learning by Design: Building Canterbury College in the City 1873-1973. An illustrated history based on the Armson Collins Architectural Drawings Collection

The Armson Collins Project


J.G. Collins at his drawing table. The walls behind are covered in photographs and drawings of buildings.

In the aftermath of the September 2010 earthquake, the architectural drawings collection at the University has taken on enormous significance for Christchurch.¬† At over 120,000 items, the Macmillan Brown Library holds one of the largest collections of archival architectural drawings in New Zealand. 

Based on the accumulated work of South Island Architects, this collection includes many original drawings by B. W. Mountfort, W. B. Armson and other architects of early Canterbury and the West Coast. The drawings cover a wide range of public and private dwellings and provide an indepth perspective on the region's built and unbuilt environment.¬†Traditionally they have been widely used by architects, architectural historians and heritage professionals and as a major teaching and research resource for students and academics.¬† In more recent times, property owners and engineers have joined the queues of people seeking to research and access the drawings. Sadly, today in many if not most cases, they are all that remain of the heritage buildings that were such a major part of the Christchurch landscape.¬†

It was in the wake of the September earthquake that the UC Research Office released some funding for a pilot digitisation project. The goal was to digitise key collections critical to the architectural history of Christchurch to both aid the Christchurch community in the post-earthquake environment and support learning, teaching and research at the University.

The focus of the pilot on the Armson Collins collection has enabled us to highlight and celebrate the formidable union between the University and the wider Christchurch community. As time goes on, more drawings will be added to this site, The hope is that these beautiful images, the memories they elicit, and the stories they prompt us to tell, will not only enable us to commemorate our past but inspire and empower us as we move towards a bright and revitalised future.

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