School_of_Engineering - Information and Records Management - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

School of Engineering

1957 - 1961, Ministry of Works, $1,316,646

1963 - 1969, Ministry of Works

Stage 1 Chemical - $55,174
Stage 2 Mechanical - $108,398
Stage 3 Civil & Electrical - $246,152
Stage 4 Lecture Theatres - $193,124
Stage 5 Chemical Main Extension - $328,481
Stage 6 Lecture Theatres & Library - $339,904

Early model of Engineering

The School of Engineering was the second area of the University to relocate to the new site at Ilam. While building work continued, the School was sufficiently completed to be used for lecturing space by February 1960. The official opening took place in October 1961 and was the first new building for the University for over a quarter of a century. A large amount of building and developing carried on in the Engineering area right through the 1960s. A chronology of the building works in Engineering from 1890 - 1985 can be viewed here.


This view of the construction site shows the large barren area which was to become the School of Engineering and soon after to develop into the full University of Canterbury.

Construction of Ilam 1958 New school from same angle 1968

Canterbury Site 1958 and 1968 from the same angle


School of Eng layout 1961During the mid-1900s the decisions related to building both within Christchurch and on a national scale were made with limited information. There was in particular a persistent underestimation of population growth and in turn of student growth. The school was originally designed for 300 students, but by 1961 the engineering student population was already 513 and by 1967 there was 677 students. Changes during the protracted planning and construction process meant it could accommodate 450 in 1961 so was still too small and would need extensive further development to keep up with growth.




Mushroom 1961 Engineering mushroom 1961

View from both sides of the iconic 'Mushroom' building


At the end of 1962 the Government approved national funding for university building programmes. Included within this was funding for the Engineering School extensions. The extensions totaling 48,967 square feet and costing $1,390,200 were completed by five different contractors between 1964 - 1967.

Mushroom 1963 School of Engineering, drawing room 1963

Hyraulics Laboratory 1963 Mobile Computer 1963


Engineering Concourse 1965

While the engineers found it difficult to express aesthetic appreciation of the new buildings they were functionally satisfactory. The spacious concourse was quickly appropriated for several major University receptions and the courtyard garden became a favoured lunchtime spot.

Model of Engineering buildings
Model of the School of Engineering












Chronicle article 1967 Nuclear Laboratory 1967

In 1967 building went ahead on the new Chemical Engineering block and the Engineering library. These rare colour photos of the time show the level of construction occurring.

Mushroom construction 1967Construction of Chemical Eng 1967Engineering construction 1967Construction with small boy 1967


When it was completed in 1967 the Engineering library set a new standard for NZ tertiary libraries. There was space for 30,000 books, 200 individual desks, some small study rooms and a seminar room. Exhibitions of painting and sculpture added to its refined atmosphere.The library had the University's first photocopier, microfiche retrieval system, microfiche copying service and the first electronic book detection system.

School of Engineering library 1968 Chronicle article 1967 School of Engineering library with students 1968


Department of Chemical Engineering 1968 View from Chemical Engineering 1969

A view of the new Chemical Engineering building, and the outlook from it over the rest of the University