“Working on a project of this sort has been an enormous privilege. We were mindful of the poignant history while designing a building that plays an active role in the everyday lives of Cantabrians.”Simon Brown
The new Christchurch Returned Services Association Memorial building opened its doors in time for the 100th anniversary celebrations of Anzac Day – a structural symbol of an enduring heritage that will simultaneously serve its community well into the future.
On March 27, 2015 the Governor-General of New Zealand, Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new RSA headquarters, designed by Warren and Mahoney.
Devastated by the February 2011 earthquake, the original clubrooms were the first RSA facility in New Zealand. The replacement building on the same central city site is not only a memorial to those who gave their lives, but a modern facility that welcomes veterans and the general public.
A defining feature of the project is the 11 steel-bladed columns that stand on the Northern edge of the central plaza forming an open colonnade to the street. “They are symbolic of the Armistice Day agreement signed at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month and ended the fighting in the First World War,” says project architect Simon Brown.
Brown says Warren and Mahoney was conscious to deliver a building that paid due respect to a rich military history and became a destination that engages the street and makes a striking first impression. Quality materials including limestone cladding and terrazzo flooring bring a sense of solidity, while extensive, full-height glazing allows the transparency appropriate to a public venue.
A function room, seminar room and offices on the first floor are not exclusively for use by RSA members but can be hired by business and community groups. A well-equipped kitchen has the capacity to extend the options for hospitality.
On the ground floor, the fully licensed Trenches Restaurant and Bar, is a new addition to the dining scene, with tables spilling out into the sheltered Memorial Plaza. Rotating displays of Canterbury and New Zealand military memorabilia will be on display in the restaurant.
The 200-square-metre plaza is a modern reinterpretation of the marae atia, the open area in front of the wharenui. It provides a formal space for RSA activities. Stone walls on two boundaries are a repository for memories – to the east engraved with names of those who served, to the west a focus for sunset ceremonies, the daily Last Post. A reflection pool is another important element that encourages quietness and contemplation.