$22m Canterbury library set to open in November

The inverted blades, unique to Te Ara Atea, add ‘drama’ to the new building. Photo: Susan Sandys
The inverted blades, unique to Te Ara Atea, add ‘drama’ to the new building. Photo: Susan Sandys
The finishing touches are being made to the striking facade of Te Ara Ātea, as the $22 million Rolleston library building nears completion.

Selwyn District Council acting manager major projects Phillip Millar said the façade had been a challenging part of the construction, due to its particular design and Covid-19 delays.

Jonathan Coote.
Jonathan Coote.
Warren and Mahoney studio head of design Jonathan Coote, based in Christchurch, gave more detail on that design.

Coote said the facade was comprised of panels made up of thousands of aluminium “blades” of various sizes.

This was a well known construction technology, and had been undertaken by New Zealand architectural facade company Insol.

The aspect unique to Te Ara Ātea had been an inverted curve to each blade, giving it a scalloped shape.

This gave the building, along with its shape, “a little bit more drama.”

While there was some intricacy with this blade design, it was not complex, he said.

“You get different shading and different light qualities, with the different models of blades,” Coote said.

The blade concept was intended to give a rippled look, similar to the patterns left in sand by river braids.

The site of Te Ara Ātea had in historical times been a flood plain for the Waimakariri River, and a photo from the 1930s had shown imprints in the land left by river braids.

Coote said with any building, there was challenges as part of the construction process.

There had been one minor issue with the facade. Some background panels were placed on the building with over-tightened screws, but this was quickly fixed.

With regard to delays associated with the pandemic, a mock-up facade was to be tested at a laboratory in Hamilton, however this was delayed by about five weeks due to the laboratory being closed in lockdown. There had also been minor supply issues.

Coote said Te Ara Ātea was one of the most exciting projects he had been involved in and he was looking forward to its opening in November.

“I think it’s really elegant. I think the idea of a building as a beacon has been achieved. We think the outcome ties nicely into the cultural narrative. It sort of breaks the light up in a really beautiful way.”

The building was designed in tune with a wider cultural narrative, gifted by Te Taumutu, involving a taniwha and the nor’west wind.

Finishing touches involved weather tightness tests, which had revealed one or two areas which needed additional work to seal them up, then they would be retested. This followed the building performing well with regard to weather tightness in May’s heavy rain event.

The 2200sq m two-storey Te Ara Ātea will feature a mixed mode library, performance space, community space, studio and workshop space, a café, art exhibition areas, a museum experience with display cabinets throughout, and studio and workshop space. It will open onto the town square, which will feature retail areas, a sensory space, kai gardens and a youth area.

Interior features include a timber ceiling and cork ceiling in the upper floor, as well as the live installation backdrop of a ribbon wall on the ground floor which imagery can be projected onto.

“The real joy in this building is the warmth and richness of the interior,” Coote said.