The first buildings of the King Edward Barracks (KEB) development represent a new urban design strategy for Christchurch and are a significant departure from the old Christchurch city model.
The design of the landscape and buildings express and celebrate the strong cultural and historical bond of Ngāi Tahu to the site, and the subsequent use by Europeans.
The first buildings of the King Edward Barracks (KEB) development represent a new urban design strategy for Christchurch and are a significant departure from the old Christchurch city model. The development is further evidence of the migration west of the city’s working population to be based along the Avon River. Ironically, the area was once the historical commercial centre of Christchurch, and known as West End in the nineteenth century – a name which has recently been reclaimed.
The design masterplan makes maximum use of a large city block by combining commercial, government and residential accommodation in a prime location bordering Cambridge Terrace, and Hereford, Cashel and Montreal Streets.
The brief from Ngāi Tahu Property required the development to reflect the values of Ngāi Tahu and to record the varied Ngāi Tahu and European history of the site. Phase One of the $85 million development has two office buildings of 6,500m2 and 7,500m2, and a 20,000m2 gross floor area multi-storey carpark. The proposed Phase Two will include two more office buildings and Phase Three comprises 70 apartments; however these still require further design and are subject to testing of market demand. Unusually for a commercial development, the whole site will enclose an urban park, to be known as Ngā Māra a Te Wera (The Gardens of Te Wera).
Warren and Mahoney created the masterplan for the three-phase development, creating a better environment for the city by “rethinking the typical urban block.” Laneways and a public garden have been created within the block, which is sheltered from the wind and orientated to capture the sun. The project represents the site developers and owners, Ngāi Tahu Property’s long term relationship with the city, and their strong desire to create a lasting space and amenities for the public rather than just a typical block of commercial buildings.
The site, bordering the Avon River, is of significant cultural and historical value. Ngāi Tahu is the current owner of the site and has occupied this important mahinga kai area for centuries. It was also the location of the old King Edward Barracks where soldiers trained and left for duty in both World Wars. Since the 1930s there have been two police headquarters on the site, the most recent of which was imploded after the earthquakes.
The central gardens will include a pathway to enable pedestrian flow from the Bridge of Remembrance through to the Civic Centre and the Art Gallery. The park will showcase the rich Ngāi Tahu and European history through its design, including a number of commissioned artworks. Early Ngāi Tahu settlement will be honoured with storyboards included in the public space, and some seats have been constructed to reflect early reed boats called mokihi. Native planting will be included in the central courtyard together with exotic deciduous species.
The advantage in being able to design a complete city block is a much better use of land with the creation of a campus-style commercial precinct with an inner courtyard. Office accommodation enjoys natural lighting from two sides and the courtyard brings people into the heart of the site. There are no back alleys with wasted space, and the buildings are better able to deal with overheating and shading.
The development has adopted the latest earthquake technology. One building is base isolated, while the other has a buckling restrained bracing system. Both Phase One buildings will have photovoltaic panels on their roofs to generate power for the complex. Both buildings will be Green Star rated, as well as holding NABERSNZ energy ratings. This energy rating system is based on an Australian environmental and energy rating system. The carpark will include state-of-the-art parking for bicycles, as well as charging facilities for electric vehicles, licence plate recognition and red/green way finding and parking technology.
Gordon Craig, senior development manager for Ngāi Tahu Property, says the iwi is proud of the development and its contribution to the ‘new’ Christchurch. “We wanted to create a place for people and a people place. We want the public, not just the tenants, to come into the site, and to contemplate the buildings and the place.”
A fearless sense of adventure and invention is expressed by the skin of this building, that is lyrical and sensuous, and complementary to both the plan and the commercial character of the building. The building acknowledges the river and courtyard like a parent loves a good daughter or son. The Right Honorable R. J. Seddon, Premier and Minister of Defence, would be proud of the fact that 113 years on his stone still holds centre stage in this fine new building. - Jury Citation, NZIA Canterbury Awards 2018