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Christchurch City Council Media Release 23 February 2000

"Chalice" Resource Consent Granted for Millennium Icon

The installation of "Chalice" is set to go ahead. Resource consent, heard on the 2nd and 3rd of February by an independent commissioner, has been granted. The 18m high Neil Dawson sculpture, predicted to be New Zealand’s definitive millennium icon, will be installed in the south-western quadrant of Cathedral Square in December of this year.

Commissioner McCracken’s report made reference to the evidence in support of and in opposition to the installation of Chalice into Christchurch’s prime urban space. In his report he states that, "It is accepted because the subject matter is a major work of art, on which there will never be agreement in terms of likes and dislikes because the location is Cathedral Square, possibly the most debated public space within the City, then there will always remain controversy.

"There is no simple answer. Overall, I have reached the conclusion that consent should be granted…for the following reasons:

The commissioner also made reference to Sir Miles Warren’s supporting evidence in which Sir Miles stated that, "In Europe’s famous squares each generation added sculptures, fountains, art works but always in the most up to date contemporary style of the time. Michelangelo added a Mannerist David to Florence's medieval piazza. It would be ridiculous and pathetically timid to commemorate the millennium with say a traditional Victorian sculpture. Sculpture and architecture are often enhanced by contrast, contrast in form, materials and style."

McCracken referred to Senior Planner, Urban Design and Heritage Neil Carrie’s report. "Mr Carrie having considered all the relevant urban design issues in respect of the Square concluded that the sculpture would not dominate the other heritage items in the Square because of its location, design and colour. He noted that as a public artwork in a large urban space the overall dimensions are important if the work is to contribute successfully towards the Square as a place of high quality amenity and visual excitement."

The resource consent application was given support by both the Cathedral Chapter, whose land part of the sculpture overhangs, and the Historic Places Trust, who have a vested interest in developments in heritage areas such as Cathedral Square.

Anna Crighton, Chair of Art 2000, says, "This decision is great! "Chalice" will be an absolute icon for the city of Christchurch and one, I believe, our residents will become increasingly fond of. We are all entitled to our own subjective view and there will be people who love it, people who hate it, and people who won’t care at all. It tells a story of Christchurch, past, present and future in an abstract way. Our Square is our public "living room" and each generation has stamped their distinctive identity on the architecture and art within. This is urban acupuncture!

"It is pleasing to be creating something of extraordinary visual value for Christchurch. I have no doubt in my mind that Neil Dawson is the sculptor to create this very special piece and I have no doubt that it belongs in Cathedral Square."

Turning Point 2000’s Chief Executive Officer, Rae Finlay comments that, "Neil has designed an appropriate piece of art with national significance and enduring value. When we had the model on display at the A&P Show last year we had so many positive comments I am sure the people of Christchurch and Canterbury will embrace this masterpiece as their own. As Turning Point 2000 has raised all the funding for Chalice from the Lottery Grants Board Millennium Fund and The Community Trust this wonderful artwork can be gifted to the people of Christchurch."


The year 2000 is a highly significant year, as it heralds the dawning of the new millennium and celebrates Canterbury’s 150th Anniversary. Turning Point 2000 is managing 27 major events and projects to commemorate this historic time.

Turning Point 2000, through its Art 2000 Advisory Group, has commissioned internationally celebrated local sculptor Neil Dawson to produce and install the major contemporary sculpture, entitled "Chalice". The commissioning brief requested a long lasting work of art that would complement the existing structures in Cathedral Square. The work was to form the third vertical element and relate to the Christ Church Cathedral and War Memorial Cenotaph.

Dawson’s design incorporates the historic eco-system of the Square by depicting the leaves of native trees, which previously grew in this now metropolitan space. It works in harmony with the Cathedral reflecting the geometric patterns evident in the architecture, windows and tiles. The conical structure emulates expansion and growth and makes reference to the aquifer underlying the Canterbury Plains - ‘gush of water’ - ‘beam of light’. The sculpture is a convergence of time, place and artistic endeavour.

Local artist Neil Dawson has an international, as well as a national, reputation. His installations include "Globe" in the Pompidou Centre, Paris, France, "Vanishing Stairs" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, "Ferns" in Wellington’s Civic Centre and the up-coming "Feathers and Skies" which will be an integral part of the Olympic Stadium, Sydney 2000.

"Chalice" is a conical structure 18 metres high, 1.2 metres in diameter at its base and 8.5 metres in diameter at the top. It is painted silver on the outside and the internal surface is a metallic blue. The painting technique used is the same as used for painting cars and will last decades. Router cut aluminium leaves of native trees being fixed to a repeated hexagonal structure forms the design.

"The density of the leaves is such that as they become larger, higher up the sculpture, they also become more detailed giving the sculpture a lightness that belies its size and the material it is built from. It is absolutely breathtaking", says Anna Crighton, Chair of Art 2000. "I believe that this extraordinary piece of sculpture will be one of the most significant and enduring reminders that we will have of the new millennium - do not underestimate its importance locally, nationally and internationally"

The Cathedral Square redevelopment, scheduled to be completed late in 1999, will see the Square become an almost entirely pedestrian area, emphasising its significance as the city’s prime urban space. "Chalice" will be installed in the southwest corner of the Square in December 2000. It will provide a valuable contribution to this place of recreation and repose. The redeveloped Square will emphasise its major features by careful night lighting of the perimeter buildings and trees.

"Chalice" will be lit at night with one floodlight situated inside the base of the cone and one spotlight aimed at the exterior of the structure from the pavement.

After installation Turning Point 2000 will gift "Chalice" to Christchurch. Christchurch City Council has agreed to act as caretakers to oversee its ongoing maintenance.

Turning Point 2000 has sourced the total $343,000 required for "Chalice" through grants from The Community Trust and the Lottery Grants Board.

For Further Information

  • Rae Finlay
    Chief Executive Officer
    Turning Point 2000

    Ph: (03) 379 2008
    Fax: (03) 379 7131
  • Anna Crighton
    Chair Art 2000

    Ph 025 983 206
  • Rachel Leitch
    Liaison Officer
    Turning Point 2000

    Ph: (03) 353 0350
    Fax: (03) 379 7131


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