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Case studies

Birkenhead Library and Civic Centre

The Birkenhead Library and Civic Centre is a purpose-built new generation 2,600m2 library situated in Birkenhead, Auckland.

The building houses the Library, Council Cashiers, Information Services, Plunket and Citizens Advise Bureau. The architectural concept 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, materiality 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, Coromandel and the CBD in the east and the Waitakeres in the west.

There are a number of innovative uses of materials that were selected to both strengthen and complement the design concept. Vertical timber fins undulate and screen the North West facade.  These are aesthetically sculptural, providing a strong visual connection with the surrounding reserve 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.

Tight site restrictions in both plan and volume limited the ability to create a more organic natural form. To avoid generating  a large rectangular box completely disengaged  from the surrounding reserve the elevations were articulated to express a more natural feel. Timber provided this connection and using a variety of timber species and colours a facade of timber fins visually provides a strong sculptural element, conceptually referencing the movement of trees and creates a clear connection with the park.   Laminated Purple Heart and Alaskan Yellow Cedar Timbers were selected for their differing qualities and have been used collectively. Hard wood, Purple Heart has been located where durability and resilience was crucial. Left to weather and silver off naturally the Purple Heart visually stands in contrast to the stained softer and lighter Alaskan Yellow Cedar. This juxtaposition of timbers provided the ability to create further visual undulation and interest to the façade.

Awards:
NZ Wood Timber Design Awards 2010
Highly Commended – Commercial Architectural Excellence
Winner – Cladding Building Envelope