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Library Subject Guides

Ōtautahi - Christchurch: The Built Environment


This section looks at architecture, suburbs, transport, industry and the University.

Architecture and Buildings

The Macmillan Brown Library has a wide range of books on Christchurch architecture. To get an idea of what we have, start with these subject keyword searches in the catalogue: architecture Christchurch and histor* buildings Christchurch.

To see some of our digitised artworks, architectural drawings and photographs of buildings, have a look at the Macmillan Brown Library’s Kā Kohika Otautahi Christchurch content block -many of these are of buildings. The first items to display will be artworks- you can click on the left to choose the other formats.

FESTA, the Festival of Transitional Architecture, has the aim of “facilitating our city-makers and citizens to imagine & experience Christchurch differently, deepening connections between people & the city”. Scroll down the ‘About page’ to see a video that gives some idea of the excitement and colour of the events. There are more image of FESTA on UC’s CEISMIC digital archive of the Canterbury earthquakes.

DigitalNZ has many resources on Christchurch buildings. Search using the words christchurch building* to see images, videos and more.

NZ On Screen has a collection of films on Kiwi architecture including The elegant Shed: Behind the Garden which looks at the ‘Christchurch style”.

Christchurch City Libraries’ Local History-places webpages  have a lot of useful resources. Of particular relevance are the Christchurch Buildings page, the digitised Architectural Heritage of Christchurch series and thumbnail images from their architectural drawings collection.

Another interesting web resource on Christchurch architecure is Christchurch Modern


The Macmillan Brown Library has a wide range of books on Christchurch suburbs. Search the catalogue using the name of the suburb and the word Christchurch​, e.g. New Brighton Christchurch.

Some books that include a discussion on suburban growth include:

Also look at Christchurch City Libraries' bibliography of local history resources on Christchurch. The Macmillan Brown Library has most of the books listed in this.

For full text of journal articles, search Multisearch from the Library's homepage.

There are several digitised theses on Start with these searches christchurch suburb* plan* ; Christchurch urban plan* ; Christchurch city planning

For full text of local newspapers and magazine articles, search Press Reader. Use the search box by clicking on the magnifying glass icon. You  can then limit to NZ publications by doing an advanced search then choosing country (you can further limit to specific publications)

For council urban planning documents, see the Council and Government Plans and Organisations and The Urban Development Strategy sections on this guide’s Transitional Ōtautahi - Christchurch page.

DigitalNZ  has a wide range of material on Christchurch suburbs and planning. Start with the search Christchurch suburb* plan*

For a critique of the development of suburbs, produced in 1983, watch this film from NZ On Screen: The City and the Suburb

 University of Canterbury Campus


There are two online resources about the UC campus

The Arts Centre siteLearning By Design: Building Canterbury College in the City 1873-1973. A website based on the Armson Collins Architectural Drawings collection. 

The Ilam siteUC's move to Ilam, 1960-70s. A website about the development of the new University of Canterbury. 

To find more about the University, search the Library Catalogue using the keywords university Canterbury history



For an overview of transport in Christchurch, start with:

For more information, start with a subject keyword search urban transportation Christchurch, you could then look broader to Christchurch transport* or Christchurch traffic.

 Suburban histories often include material on transport. Some examples include:

Also try the keyword search Christchurch suburb*

Tramways Do a subject keyword search on street railroads christchurch

Council Planning documents

Christchurch City CouncilSee the Christchurch City Council website for their current information on transport.

For planning documents and other publications,start with a catalogue subject keyword search urban transportation Christchurch, you could then look broader to Christchurch transport* or Christchurch traffic.

Environment Canterbury plans urban public transport services in Christchurch and advocates for regional transport needs. See their Transport pages.

Other online resources

  • PapersPast. Provides access to historic newspaper articles.Try a simple search on Christchurch transport (using ‘exact phrase”).
  • DigitalNZ. Links to a range of online resources.
  • Indexes to the Press. Search for early transport.

Industries and Commerce

Browse the catalogue using the subject heading Industries--New Zealand--Christchurch

Street directories are useful to trace changes in businesses or residences in an area. Ask a staff member for details of what's available. Christchurch City Libraries have digitised several Southern Provinces Almanacs from the 1860s and the Christchurch and Suburban Directory for 1879

Newspaper articles are another good source. Check out our guide to local newspapers and their indexes or ask for help.

Online resources: start with Digital NZ  

Some historic Christchurch industries include:



Christchurch Gas, Coal and Coke Company / Christchurch Gas Works 

Contact me for help

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Caroline Syddall
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Macmillan Brown Library.

My hours of work are Monday-Thursday 8.30-5.00
03 3693883 or x93883