South Christchurch Library and Service Centre

This single-storey building was designed to serve a wide range of community needs.  The brief expressed a strong preference for an informal building that was responsive to the environment and acknowledged the building’s unique site.

This single-storey building was designed to serve a wide range of community needs.  The brief expressed a strong preference for an informal building that was responsive to the environment and acknowledged the building’s unique site.

This single-storey building was designed to serve a wide range of community needs.  Among these were a traditional library, a council service centre, meeting rooms, a learning centre with an IT suite servicing local schools, and an independent café. 

The brief was developed through consultation with the local community which expressed a strong preference for an informal building that was responsive to the environment and acknowledged the building’s unique site, bounded as it is on one edge by Heathcote River.  The core concept for the building was then developed with the help of The Natural Step, and it later become a pilot for the development of the Christchurch City Council’s Target Zero Strategy.

With a footprint of 2,400m2, the building is comprised of four long pavilions with mono-pitch roofs.  Longitudinal circulation is provided by a sequence of corridors, with the southernmost clearly defined as enfilade and stretching the entire length of the building.  

The single-storey approach was chosen for both cost and operational reasons, and ensures that all functions are readily accessible.  It also allows for the book collection to be laid out in a simple, logical manner.   

Users enter a light-filled space bounded to the north by screen walls that float between glazed bands above and below, and dissolve into curtains of glass to the east and west.  Reducing the length of each pavilion created opportunities to form light-filled reading spaces which, to the west, open onto timber decks floating in the moat.  The interior's expansive feel is enhanced by shoulder-height book stacks, making it possible to take in almost the entire space at a glance. 

External decks are surrounded by a shallow moat and set in a shaded landscape of lawn and mature trees.  The moat adds an element of security, while the water helps to blur the lines between private and public space.

ESD Features 

Sustainability features make the complex one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in Christchurch providing substantial long-term benefits for the community.

Water use. Rainwater from the roof is collected and stored in the moat for use in the toilets and irrigation system while low water-use plumbing fittings and waterless urinals further reduce water use.

Material selection. All timber has been sourced from certified sustainable sources. Where possible, non-toxic materials were used to reduce indoor air pollutants as well as minimise pollution of the environment resulting from their manufacture. Durable materials including glass and unpainted zincalume roofing minimise the use of surface finishes.

Waste minimisation. Preference was given to the use of building materials with recycled content. For example, the acoustic insulation is manufactured from 100% recycled wool scraps and the cement has 75% recycled content. The building was constructed in accordance with a waste management plan, drawn up in conjunction with the Christchurch City Council Target Zero Waste team, to reduce the amount of waste created during the construction process.

Site ecology. Planted drainage swales and retention ponds help to slow down the speed of storm water leaving the site, while at the same time filtering out pollutants such as petrol and diesel residues from roads and carparks. The overall design has been responsive to the topography and ecology - minimising earth movement and the removal of trees.

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