Turanga built from local and global ideas

Turanga built from local and global ideas
Turanga is a collaboration between New Zealand firm Architectus, and Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

According to Albert Einstein, “The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” Fortunately, Turanga – Christchurch’s stunning new central library – isn’t hard to find.
Cloaked in a gleaming gold exterior that reflects the changing light, the landmark building is already drawing an enthusiastic crowd.
Turanga is a collaboration between New Zealand firm Architectus, and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects (SHLA), a Danish company with an international reputation in library design. Both companies speak highly of the productive partnership.
“As we completed work here it was morning in New Zealand, where the team would continue on. It could be a 24-hour a day project,” explains Morten Schmidt, of SHLA.Morten believes libraries play an important role in public life, as they’re one of the few non-commercial spaces remaining in cities.
“These buildings belong to the people. We want them to feel accessible to everyone.”
To extend this open invitation, the ground floor atrium was designed to work as a continuation of the streetscape says Matthew Holloway, of Architectus.
“The hope is that the foyer will become a through-route. Then along the way, you might get distracted and discover something you weren’t expecting.” There is certainly plenty to discover.
The atrium alone features a cafe, an innovation zone with robotics and virtual reality technology, and New Zealand’s largest touchscreen discovery wall. From ground level, a striking feature staircase, ‘Nga Iho o te Rangi’, draws the eye upwards and encourages exploration of the upper levels.
As well as housing 180,000 books, these floors contain a children’s play area, audio/video production studios, a craft room with sewing machines, laser cutters and 3D printers, and a 200-seat meeting room.
One thing visitors to Turanga won’t see is the steel crossbeams common to much of Christchurch’s post-quake architecture.

Turanga built from local and global ideas
Turanga has something for everyone, including children’s activity areas.

Instead, Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers designed a seismic force-resisting system featuring large-scale concrete walls that can rock and shift, isolating the building from peak earthquake accelerations.
An integrated, self-centering mechanism enables the building to sway and then return to its original position.
This innovative structure allows for an open floor plan uninterrupted by cross bracing. “It gives the space a lot of fl exibility, going forward,” says Matthew.
For Morten, the materials used in the construction of Turanga made for an interesting creative departure.
“In other parts of the world the tendency is to make things more white and plain – more Nordic looking, you could say,” says Morten.
“This project turned out very warm and colourful in its materiality.” Matthew agrees that the library has a uniquely New Zealand feel, particularly in its striking exterior.
“The folded golden patterning is a response to the colours and textures of the Port Hills, especially in late summer. “And the triangular shapes reference the raupo and harakeke from the swamp lands that would have been here originally.”
Both architects cite the fundamental contribution made by Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu and Ngai Taahuriri, who guided the integration of matauranga mana whenua – the knowledge held by the people of this place – into the library’s design.
The stunning results can be seen throughout Turanga, from the dual-language signage and significant artworks by Maori artists, to the orientation of roof terraces, which face culturally significant locations in the Canterbury landscape and beyond.
“We think it was critical to the project’s success that the building responds to those values at a core conceptual level,” says Matthew.
The opportunity to attend the library’s opening ceremony was a satisfying culmination to the project for Morten.
“Always, when these buildings are completed, it’s so rewarding to see people responding positively to them.”
Matthew agrees that the sense of ownership and pride is clear. “It’s something that everyone who worked on this has felt – from the Libraries team, to council, to the tilers and plumbers.
“We get to enjoy this building with our family and friends too, and that’s really special.”
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