Isaac Theatre Royal


Isaac Theatre Royal


Christchurch, New Zealand

Year Completed


Project Value

NZ $40M


Gold Award from ACENZ Innovation Awards 2016 (Holmes Fire)

Christchurch Civic Awards 2014 (Winner)

Arts Access Accolade Awards 2015 (Winner)

Interiors Awards 2015 (Winner)

New Zealand Institute of Architects Canterbury Awards 2015 (Winner)

Property Council of New Zealand 2015: Heritage and Adaptive Re-Uses Property Awards (Best in category)

Southern Excellence Awards 2015: Best Project Team Award (Winner)

Holmes Team

Darin Miller, Erik Carlsson, Joakim Olander, Lina Lejonklou

The Isaac Theatre Royal is one of Christchurch’s most iconic heritage buildings and became the first major entertainment venue to reopen for business in the CBD following the February 2011 earthquakes. An ambitious project was undertaken to repair the building with the main focus being the salvage of key heritage features.

Holmes Fire was brought into the project during construction to review the existing Fire Engineering Strategy provided by another consultant. Through performance based design we were able to present a robust solution on schedule and on budget.

The new Fire Engineering Strategy was produced within three months of engagement. The fire engineering design process also included:

  • Collaboration with the University of Canterbury to develop a new egress modelling tool for Holmes Fire use, which could undertake the buildings comprehensive egress assessment of merging crowd spaces;
  • Development of a fire strategy which considered an alternative compliance with the New Zealand Building Code in order to maintain the original architectural vision of a building designed over 100 years ago;
  • A hands-on approach to proactively integrate the Fire Strategy with the operational needs of the Theatre.
  • Consideration to Safety in Design, which included the physical practicality of installation and maintenance of the proposed fire strategy; and
  • Implementation of a complex fire and security interface which included multiple tests and training of theatre staff.

The design team had a vision of reviving the building to its original design including several key heritage features such as the auditorium dome and plaster detailing, marble stairs, and Edwardian façade. The dome and plaster detailing, in particular, relied heavily on our assessment.

Using smoke modelling tools, we were able to eliminate the need for the existing motorised smoke curtains covering the full width of the theatre adjacent to the dome. This also allowed the client to remove all of the access gantries and maintenance of the system.

Throughout the project we were able to work collaboratively with the client to provide a unique, performance-based solution tailored specifically to the needs of the heritage building.

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