Te Ara Ātea - Rolleston Town Centre
Te Ara Ātea, is a new library, community and performance facility. It is the anchor landmark building for the future Rolleston Town Centre, situated on what is currently Rolleston Reserve in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand.
Following Selwyn District Council’s extensive community consultation, Warren and Mahoney utilised this vital local knowledge to form the backbone of the briefing and design process, delivering a community facility that is directly formed from its community’s needs.
Te Ara Ātea will act as a beacon, not only in location, but for the diverse and growing Selwyn District community it serves. The design of the building has a strong community focus and challenges the typical preconceptions of a ‘library’. Selwyn District Council and the collaboration of the wider design team worked hard to connect community needs with cultural heritage at all levels. The result is not only a library but a flexible, multi-purpose community and performance space that acts as a hybrid museum and live history tour.
In consultation with Te Taumutu Rūnanga, the name Te Ara Ātea was gifted to the project, meaning ‘unobstructed trail to the world and beyond.’
The Tūterakiwhanoa and Te Kete Ika a Rākaihautū traditions became key design drivers throughout the design stages of the project. The cultural narrative is expressed both externally within the façade and entrances and internally within the interior of the larger library, community and performance spaces. These are connected via a fluid double-height atrium with a centrally located jewel-like space called Te Waka Huia, providing a display, research and reflection space for significant local taonga (treasures).
Internally, the key themes of the narrative have been integrated in both a playful and meaningful way, creating an environment and experience that is rich and multi-layered, provoking a sense of delight and discovery.
Alongside the cultural narrative, strong historical rail, rural and Selwyn District contextual ties are also referenced. In partnership with Warren and Mahoney, Workshop e, leaders in exhibition and experiential design, development and production, created digital and analogue elements that weave together a tapestry of story and history, embedding visitors into the unique cultural and geographical context. With a rich culture narrative and a blank canvas to work from, the team created a distinctive civic project that is unique in its outcome.