South Library, a popular community facility on the Ōpāwaho, Heathcote River, Christchurch, was badly damaged in the 2010/2011 earthquakes. With temporary strengthening put in place, the Council is considering a rebuild that will future-proof the facility for decades to come.
Ignite were appointed as lead consultant and have developed a concept that encapsulates the existing elements of the building that worked well, and re-imagined those that could be improved.
The project team, local to the area, regularly frequent the library at weekends to spend time with their families and unwind by the river. This uniquely immersive experience has helped the team monitor the evolution of how the community uses the facility and surrounding areas. Initiatives such as the weekly farmers’ market, and improved pedestrian and cycle connections are a focal part of this.
“Working closely with a multidisciplinary team and the local community, we are working to create a space that’s resilient, accessible, and captures the strong identity of our community.”
The focus of the design response - unpacked in a sequence of layers - is to reconnect the building with the Ōpāwaho, which traverses the site’s northern edge and wraps around to the east.
This is primarily achieved through the introduction of a courtyard on the northern edge, orientating visitors to landscaped views and the river corridor beyond, as they enter the facility.
Further layers see a matrix of walls and openings forming legibility and structure, a main roof plane, kept low to provide a cosy human-scale feel, and four tall translucent ‘popups’ that act as beacons externally, and provide light wells to key areas inside.
The southern edge will remain the ‘backbone’ of the building, accommodating operational functions. Working areas that are currently disconnected will become functional shared spaces, with a range of meeting rooms available for public and staff use.
Feedback from the community has influenced internal space planning. The importance of physical books, for example, determines a considered spread of genres throughout the facility and a larger processing and returns areas.
The café – highly favoured by visitors - is to be positioned on the north-east corner for the best morning sun, and direct site lines to the children’s area.
As the new building follows a similar footprint to the existing structure, the current foundation slab will remain in place, offering savings in costs, time, and carbon emissions. An additional 500mm of new raft slab added on top, will provide resilience in future seismic and flooding events.