Harewood Chapel's architecture

A Christchurch architectural treasure

Harewood Chapel is a local landmark. Its butterfly roof soaring above a sea of trees is familiar to generations of Cantabrians. A significant modernist building designed by Christchurch architects Warren and Mahoney; the chapel won several architectural awards when it was established in 1964.


Built with the concrete blocks and expansive glazing that are a signature of New Zealand sixties architecture, the chapel’s design evokes a tent. Light flows through the airy space, and the glazed walls surrounded by the greenery of the trees, create a sense of the interior being one with the memorial gardens.

Enhanced by extensive renovations in 2024

By 2023, the building was 60 years old. It was showing its age and needed a lot of attention. The goal was to preserve the building for the next 60 years, while making the chapel more comfortable and inviting.

Architect Bernard Johnston, of Intrados Architecture, oversaw renovations. He explains, “Harewood Chapel was originally designed as a small chapel in the brutalist style. It was an austere, minimalist design, with little in the way of creature comforts.”

Renovations were carried out with tremendous respect for the original design. The building’s exterior and the memorial gardens are heritage listed. The architect also made the conscious decision to preserve the heritage of the interior. Because of the minimalist nature of the building there’s nowhere to hide, so a lot of care went into minimising the visual disruption of modern services such as audio and Wi-Fi.

“As all buildings do, it has adapted. The chapel has over doubled in size and seating capacity since it was built. These days people want to be comfortable and see what’s happening. That changes the dynamic of the building from its original intent. We were given the task of giving the chapel a bit of a hug.”

Architect – Bernard Johnston

Safety is a priority throughout

Caskets were placed on a raised catafalque at the front of the chapel during ceremonies. Pallbearers had to negotiate steps and the platform prevented people with mobility issues from gathering round the casket. The raised area has been removed and the catafalque lowered to make things safer and more accessible.


Stairs down to the crematorium have been reconfigured to make access easier for families who wish to view their loved one’s casket being charged into the cremator. If you would like to do this, please talk to your funeral director before the funeral.


Originally, the internal courtyard between the chapel and the catering lounge featured a fishpond, but the pool had become a hazard. Builders lifted all the paving, restored the original stones, filled in the pond, and repaved the whole courtyard. A stunning, cloud pruned tree is now a central feature.


Warm and welcoming

Interior designer Tania Gorton came up with a green and gold colour scheme to complement the chapel’s organic surrounds. This plays out in the lush broadloom carpet woven by Feltex and new upholstery for the chairs. A grand piano has been installed, and pianists can play as part of services and gatherings.


Graphic designer Alaina Rhind created designs for screens around the chapel using a diamond pattern set into the ceiling as a motif. She also designed new wayfinding signage to help people find their way around with ease.


If you’ve ever attended a funeral at Harewood Chapel, you might remember the bathrooms as cramped and unwelcoming. With Tanya’s touch, the bathrooms are now spacious, comfortable, and wheelchair accessible.


Carparking has improved dramatically. When you enter off Wilkinson's Road, you’ll find the car park entrances have been reshaped and routes reconfigured to create a logical, circular flow of traffic. Paths have been rebuilt and parking designed to ensure everything is accessible for anyone with mobility issues.

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