After the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 that hit New Zealand, the city of Christchurch has launched a Recovery Plan in aid of redeveloping of city’s centre, which was severely damaged. At the core of the program is the New Central Library (NCL) designed by schmidt hammer lassen architects.
The previous Central Library on Gloucester Street was badly damaged and the land it stands on has been designated for the city’s new convention centre. The Recovery Plan aims for a more accessible city with a compact centre and a strong identity. The main goal is for Christchurch to become a vibrant city for all people and cultures recognizing, in particular, the Ngai Tahu heritage and places of social and historical significance.
The New Central Library will incorporate four key themes: Dynamically Connected for Discovery & Learning, A Fusion of Spaces for every Function, Equipped for Every Purpose, A Welcoming Place.
The 12,000 m² library will provide easy access to digital technologies and local heritage collections, as well as exhibition and performance space, a learning Centre, indoor and outdoor relaxation spaces, and activities to entertain and educate young people.
The design of the building creates a constant connection between the interior and the surrounding landscape by incorporating large openings and roof terraces. The ground floor itself is treated as a continuation of the public square and creating a welcoming and informal entrance. This floor houses a foyer, reception, cafe, meeting rooms and a Technology & Innovation department.
The design strongly expresses the Community Arena as the city´s place of discussion, debate and celebration with a strong connection to the civic space of Cathedral Square. The Community Arena is situated in between the Ground floor and the Pataka in order to enhance the position and importance of this function. It also includes activity rooms and the Children & Youth department. It’s oriented with a large, glazed opening toward the square in order for library activities to be part of and enliven the square.
The Pataka, for Ngai Tahu, symbolizes a knowledge storehouse raised upon posts. Therefore these upper three floors encloses the Oceania floor and the majority of the NCL´s collections, reading rooms and a creative area. Roof terraces and the western facade are oriented towards the distant views and wider context while the staggered atrium creates a strong vertical journey connecting “Mother Earth with Father Sky”. The southern facade defines the northern edge of Cathedral Square supporting the definition of the Maltese Cross.
The library is designed with materials closely related to New Zealand’s nature and range of colors. Exposed concrete up against warm timber, partly on floors and ceilings will reflect an atmosphere of authenticity and cultural embracement.
Architects: Architectus, New Zealand, schmidt hammer lassen architects
Client: Christchurch City Council
Area: 9 – 12.000 m²
Competition: Winner of contract in an international competition, 2014
Consultants: Arup Sydney, Mott MacDonald, Marshall Day, Planz Consulting, Opus/SGH, Beca, Aurecon, DLNZ/Aecom
*All images and information courtesy of schmidt hammer lassen architects.