New central library unveiled

Christchurch’s new central library will be a beacon that draws people into Cathedral Square and will light up at night like a lantern, one of its designers says.

Concept designs for the $85 million, five-storey library on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo streets were presented to Christchurch City councillors on Thursday after months of behindthe-scenes work.

At 9850 square metres, the new library will be more than a third bigger than the old library in Gloucester St but smaller than Auckland and Wellington’s central libraries.

Architects from New Zealand firm Architectus and awardwinning Danish firm schmidt hammer lassen have worked together on the concept plans, drawing inspiration from the local landscape.

Project director Carsten Auer said the openings on the upper floors of the building faced culturally significant points in the Canterbury landscape and beyond, while the facade was designed to reflect the folded nature of the Port Hills. The facade also echoed the triangular leaves of the native harakeke flax, which originally grew in swamps around the site where the new library was to be built.

‘‘At night the library becomes a lantern that lights up Cathedral Square . . . a beacon that draws people across the Square,’’ Auer said.

The ground floor of the library has been designed essentially as an extension of Cathedral Square with a cafe, retail space and an area displaying new technology.

A light-filled central atrium will lead people up through the different levels of the library. The first floor, with its extended height, will be one of the most impressive spaces within the library, housing a 200-seat community arena, exhibition space, and areas for families, children and youth.

The top three floors house the bulk of the library’s digital, specialist and print collections along with meeting, recreation and activities areas, including a dedicated quiet reading room. Two large outdoor terraces on the top floor offer views of the Port Hills and the Southern Alps.

Christchurch City Council libraries and information manager Carolyn Robertson said she was ‘‘absolutely delighted’’ with the design for the new library and believed it would serve as both a cultural hub for Christchurch and an important civic space that would attract people back into the central city.

‘‘The budget is tight but we absolutely believe it is achievable,’’ she said.


  • Lois Cairns
  • The Press

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