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Timber Design Awards

Onehunga Primary School Seating Shelter

This project was spurred by Auckland’s increasing transportation problems and by a desire to use architecture to influence children’s transport choices.

This project was spurred by Auckland’s increasing transportation problems and by a desire to use architecture to influence children’s transport choices. Onehunga Primary School lacks a safe area for children to meet before and after school, so the objective was to provide a sheltered seating area and meeting point at the entrance to the school that supports the operation of the bicycle and ‘walking school bus’ programs.

Buildability was a crucial issue; it was imperative that the structure could be constructed from donated New Zealand made plywood and with unskilled labour. The structures incorporate Pacific weaving and tapa patterns, and two key elements: a grillage structure of mutually supportive beams, and a roof diaphragm to provide bracing. Computer simulations and physical prototyping were utilized to test and refine the reciprocal network structures, to ensure structural stability and efficient use of materials. After components were cut on a CNC milling machine, sanded, and painted, a system of columns and beams was created to simply slot together using friction joints. The roof diaphragm was assembled over it, and the completed structure was placed into concrete footings on-site. Messages within the structure (in English, Samoan, Tongan and Maori), developed by students involved in the school’s sustainability programs, raise commuters’ awareness of sustainable forms of transit and encourage them to make the change for themselves.

The shelter’s design and construction benefited two communities: it educates and inspires the children and parents of Ohehunga Primary, while developing the design and construction skills of Architecture students.