Christchurch book-lovers’ new home

One com­pen­sa­tion of the city’s quake or­deal is its state-ofthe-art li­brary.

New Zealand Listener - - LITERACY THREAT -

‘The only thing that you ab­so­lutely have to know,” said Albert Ein­stein, “is the lo­ca­tion of the li­brary.” In Christchurch, that will be the easy part. At night, Tūranga, the new $92 mil­lion cen­tral li­brary, glows golden above the pit­ted Wil­son’s car parks and the end­lessly dark Cathe­dral Square. By day, the stri­ated alu­minium fa­cade re­flects the folded na­ture of the nearby Port Hills, all tawny grass and sud­den shad­ows in an oth­er­wise muted cityscape.

The lo­ca­tion of the books may not be so ob­vi­ous.

Open for busi­ness from Oc­to­ber 12, Tūranga will in­vite the ex­pected 3000 vis­i­tors a day into a spa­cious, noisy, 10,000sq m civic hub. It fea­tures a cafe, a 200-seat com­mu­nity arena, two ro­botic cad­dies trans­fer­ring re­turned items to the pro­cess­ing area and a huge $1.2 mil­lion 7m-long in­ter­ac­tive touch­screen wall where users will be able to swipe through a vir­tual mon­tage of the city’s his­tory. Up­stairs, li­brary users will find ac­tiv­ity rooms, a video-edit­ing suite, fa­cil­i­ties for crafts, 3D print­ing, an ex­hi­bi­tion space, study spa­ces, meet­ing rooms, a large chil­dren’s play area laid out be­neath a mul­ti­coloured cloud­scape of LED lights, out­door ter­races look­ing out to Maukatere/Mt Grey to the north and to­wards Ao­raki/Mt Cook in the west.

And yes, there will be books –

180,000 of them, re­trieved from two tem­po­rary li­braries and two store­rooms where they have been housed since the Can­ter­bury earth­quakes. Where books

once filled the ground floor of the old li­brary, pulled down in 2014 to make way for the city’s un­der-con­struc­tion con­ven­tion cen­tre, they’ll now oc­cupy the three up­per floors of the new fa­cil­ity.

“It’s about draw­ing peo­ple up through the build­ing,” says Christchurch head of li­braries and in­for­ma­tion Carolyn Robert­son, weav­ing her way be­tween looped ca­bles, wrapped fur­ni­ture and rows of sharp white shelv­ing, in ad­vance of its open­ing. “It al­lows for that di­ver­sity of ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Although peo­ple might as­sume the new li­brary is sim­ply a big­ger ver­sion of the old one, the re­al­ity, she says, is dif­fer­ent: “We’re com­pletely rein­vent­ing it in the process.”

The li­brary was de­signed by New Zealand com­pany Ar­chi­tec­tus in part­ner­ship with award-winning Dan­ish li­brary de­sign ex­perts Sch­midt Ham­mer Lassen Ar­chi­tects (now part of global ar­chi­tec­ture firm Perkins+Will).

As lead ar­chi­tect Carsten Auer writes, “Li­braries have moved on from be­ing repos­i­to­ries of books to be­ing mul­ti­me­dia hubs and so­cial hubs. The mod­ern li­brary is the ‘third space’ be­tween home and work. It’s a place where you can meet peo­ple or be ‘alone to­gether’, en­joy­ing shar­ing a so­cial and recre­ational space with oth­ers, even if you are not en­gag­ing di­rectly with them.”

The de­sign­ers looked to new li­braries around the world, in­clud­ing those in Birm­ing­ham, Nova Sco­tia, Salt Lake City and the new Dokk1 in Aarhus, Den­mark, also de­signed by Sch­midt Ham­mer Lassen

“Li­braries have moved on from be­ing repos­i­to­ries of books to be­ing mul­ti­me­dia hubs and so­cial hubs.”

and in­clud­ing a cit­i­zen ser­vice cen­tre, stu­dios, a cafe, a theatre and ter­raced stairs that con­vert into an am­phithe­atre.

These are the archetypes for the new ar­chi­tect-de­signed hy­brid li­brary, a mul­ti­pur­pose civic com­mons aimed at fos­ter­ing com­mu­nity liv­ing as much as learn­ing and lit­er­acy.

Although rep­re­sent­ing new global trends in li­brary de­sign, Tūranga also has a strong lo­cal flavour. The fin-like shapes on the ex­te­rior cladding echo harakeke (flax) leaves. The de­sign, on the in­te­rior ground-floor wall and sand­blasted into the ex­te­rior blue­stone, was de­vised by lo­cal Māori artists Mor­gan MathewsHale and, in a wel­come re­turn to the pub­lic space of the city, mas­ter carver Riki Manuel.

On track for a Green Star sus­tain­abil­ity rat­ing of 5 out of a po­ten­tial 6, the build­ing will also be braced for fu­ture earth­quakes. Its core is made up of 26m-high pre­cast con­crete walls clamped by damp­ing de­vices de­signed to dis­si­pate the en­ergy of seis­mic events like struc­tural shock ab­sorbers.

Says South­base Con­struc­tion site man­ager Andy Hayes, “If this place is af­fected [by a quake], the town is gone.”

Christchurch’s new $92 mil­lion li­brary, Tūranga, de­signed by Ar­chi­tec­tus in part­ner­ship with Den­mark’s Sch­midt Ham­mer Lassen Ar­chi­tects.

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