Central Library design principles agreed

Wellington City Council has adopted four principles that will guide the design for modernising the Central Library building within the remediation plans.

This includes extending the floor space and working with other organisations to offer people a broader range of services and innovative ways to engage with the collections.

“Wellingtonians were very clear when we consulted last year that we need a highly resilient central library building. Strengthening gives us the opportunity to hugely improve the library’s relationship to Te Ngākau Civic Square and surrounding streets, and to completely rethink its interior,” says Mayor Andy Foster.

“Future proofing the library, providing more space for people, and introducing new services and technology were also overwhelmingly supported by Wellingtonians.

“Today we adopted design principles that will guide the reshaping of the interior library space. These principles will provide much wanted technologies and ways to access the collection, along with new spaces and services for existing and new library users. I am particularly excited to confirm integration of Capital E, our City Archives and City Service Centre into the library, and that it will be an inclusive and more accessible building than before.

“I have no doubt that our Central Library, Te Matapihi, will rapidly become an even more treasured place for all Wellingtonians.”

“We also agreed to a modest (880sq metre) extension to the Level 3 and 4 office space that sits above the library proper. This extension will be net positive in terms of revenue to Council and make the existing office space more useable. We also agreed to making the building a 5-star green building which includes the consideration of a rooftop garden space in the design.”

At today’s meeting the Mayor put forward an amendment for officers to investigate the feasibility of including a Literary Hub within the Central Library which was adopted. This proposal was spoken to in the Public Participation part of the meeting by Claire Mabey of Verb Wellington, and Juliet Blyth of ReadNZ, who spoke on behalf of Te Ha, ReadNZ, Booksellers, Publisher’s Association and Verb Wellington.

The Council’s Libraries Portfolio Lead, Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, says working with partners, including Mana Whenua, Capital E, the Council’s Service Centre and Wellington City Archives will uncover the potential for people to connect with the collections and spaces, and offer a broader range of services in innovative ways.

“As well as returning the aspects of the library people value such as spaces to study, connect and read the collection, we are investigating how we may provide new programmes, such as makerspaces. We are working through how this may look, which we plan to share in the coming months.

“One principle which starts today is calling the Central Library by its gifted name Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui, which already sits above its entrances. This name, gifted by Te Taura Whiri o te reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) when the building originally opened, reflects the Library’s purpose ‘to open windows on the wide world’.

“Our libraries strive to be places where everyone is welcome and have opportunities to view the world in different ways, and for knowledge to be passed on.”

The design principles were developed through early engagement with Mana Whenua, key stakeholders, and potential partners, and our library teams. They also align to the draft design principles for Te Ngākau Civic Precinct. These were adopted, along with a few amendments, by the Council last Thursday.

The options to extend levels three and four will now be included in the detailed design process which is currently underway. We will share more information on the process and a further detailed Design and Service Level Brief in the coming month.

Background
The Central Library building was closed in March 2019 following an engineering assessment saying the way the floor was designed presented a high level of potential failure in a significant earthquake The Council moved quickly to set up an interim CBD library service at three new branches.
The Council then worked through a process with its consultant engineers to establish the range of options to remediate the Central Library building. Three schemes were scoped that offered low, mid, and high levels of resilience.

Following a Special Consultative Procedure in 2020, Council resolved to progress Option C, high-level remediation through base isolation, to the Long-term Plan (LTP) which is now open for public consultation. In the LTP the public is being asked for their views on how to fund the $187.4m library remediation project, and when the project should take place.

The preferred option includes the Council agreeing to temporarily breach its debt limit of 225% to ensure the library can be refurbished in the original timeframe and remain in public ownership.
The debt level will remain at 225%, and the Council has agreed to accept the breach in the first three years of this plan. This breach will be mitigated by any capital underspend being used for the library project rather than on new projects. Our debt level will be back below the limit by year 4 – 2024/25.

The other two options are to:

  • delay the project for up to three years until it can be funded within the Council’s current debt limit, or,
  • fund the project by increasing rates further.

More information about the options can be found on pages 42 and 43 of the consultation document.

More detail can be found in the Council meeting agenda for Thursday 15 April.

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