Location: Christchurch, New Zealand.

Architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects and Architectus.

Tūranga, the new central library in Christchurch, New Zealand, is a symbol of hope, unity, and rebirth after the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects and Architectus, the library reflects the city’s unique cultural identity and heritage through consultation and design collaboration with Ngāi Tūāhuriri, the local indigenous people. The library’s bicultural representation is evident in the golden, pleated veil that covers sections of the striking, graphic glazed façade, referencing the local harakeke flax and the hills to the south of the city. The library’s design reflects the desire to re-establish the urban form of Cathedral Square, the city’s centre as defined by the European settlers, through its strong and simple form that anchors the southern edge of the square. The ground floor embodies the spirit of whakamanuhiri, the Māori culture of welcoming guests, drawing people into the library and enticing them to begin their journey through the building. The library’s programming draws people up through the building as they move from active lower floors to slower, more-reflective spaces in the middle to the drawcard of fiction on the top floor. The journey through the building is facilitated through the central atrium with its staggered layout and social staircases for gathering, reading, and resting. The journey culminates in the roof terraces on the top floor, orientated towards important Māori settlements and cultural sites, framing views to local landmarks such as the Southern Alps and the Banks Peninsula. Structurally, Tūranga is designed to withstand future potential earthquakes, constructed to very stringent performance criteria designed to sustain minimal structural damage during a large earthquake. Thanks to an integrated, self-centering mechanism, the library will stand as a unifying landmark in Christchurch for generations to come.

Photo credit: Adam Mørk.