The new Birkenhead Library and Civic Centre is a purpose-built new generation 2,600m2 library situated on a reserve site in Birkenhead, Auckland, New Zealand. The architectural concept for the library is based around a simple narrative of looking through ancient trees that existed on the site to the view – thus notions of solid and void, transparency, light quality, pattern and form were considered and modeled to inform various design demands. The intention was to have a pleasant and verdant quality of light available within the building that subtly changes during the day, leading to the building becoming transparent at night. The building enjoys a unique setting in the existing elevated Neil Fisher War Memorial Reserve. The reserve has been upgraded to both complement and enhance the building and the library is positioned to take account of the expansive and panoramic views available including Rangitoto Island, Coromandel Peninsula and the Auckland CBD in the east and the Waitakere Mountains in the west. The new Birkenhead Library and Civic Centre makes a noticeably positive contribution to the surrounding built environment. The return of a library to the heart of the Birkenhead business district, after a four year absence, has been welcomed by all.
There are a number of innovative uses of materials that were selected to both strengthen and complement the design concept. The use of brick both internally and externally historically acknowledges the old Plunket buildings that previously occupied the site and provides a strong organisational element to the building’s floor plan. Laminated Purple Heart and Alaskan Yellow Cedar vertical “fins” undulate and screen the west facade. These are aesthetically sculptural while also practically acting as sun control. Timber “fins” are also used as balustrades on the mezzanine and exterior decks and create attractive detail when viewed from ground and street level. Patterned laser cut sheets form a striking internal perforated screen to the south façade. Glazed vertical slots (with glass alternating green and blue) behind the screens create further depth and dapple the incoming morning light. Precast patterned lightweight panels form the exterior south façade, installed in a manner to continue the sense of lightness and transparency, the use of lightweight concrete reduced the level of additional insulation required. Laser cut perforated ceiling panels also provide dappled light through roof lights above and also functionally act as smoke extracts and air extract for the smoke extract fans located within the ceiling space.
The building houses the Birkenhead Library, Council Cashiers, Information Services, Plunket and Citizens Advise Bureau. It combines Wi Fi, RFID, Internet and BMS technologies within contemporary architecture, space planning and design. On site public parking for thirty one cars within the building and a drive through book return have been provided as a New Zealand first initiative. It was designed with each tenant in mind and caters to the individual organisation with both specific and shared spaces, thereby creating a cost effective use of specialised space. Although designed for specific tenants and purposes, the building allows a great degree of flexibility, as technology is expected to change the provision of future library services and it is foreseeable that the library will eventually occupy the entire building. The public library space incorporates comfortable seating, generous study space and six meeting rooms that can be booked by the public and accessed after hours independently of the library. In addition, a successful model for traditional children’s and young adult areas, fiction and non-fiction shelving has been followed. A learning centre on the ground floor and a smaller version in the children’s area provided the opportunity for single or group learning and training classes.
Client: North Shore City Council
Location: 205 Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead, North Shore City, New Zealand
Project design team: Brendan Rawson (director in charge), Leon Bieldt (Project Architect), John Ingham, Henri Sayes, Tane Pratt, Rose McShane, Anna Fraser
Project management: RDT Pacific
Structural engineer: Brown and Thompson
Mechanical / Services engineer: S.K.M (Sinclair Knight Mertz)
Quantity surveyor: Maltbys
Planner: Burton Consultants
Traffic planner: McCormack Rankin Cagney
Construction Company: Mainzeal Property and Construction
Date of Practical Completion: 2 December 2009