University of Canterbury
  • University of Canterbury
  • Canterbury – West Coast

In the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes, the University of Canterbury’s students were dispersed far and wide. The challenge for the rebuild team was to create a ‘sticky’ campus to draw people back. It required a bespoke, modern solution that would create a safe and comfortable new home for students. 

The $27m University of Canterbury Students’ Association (UCSA) facility is all that, and more. Completed in 2019, the 4,000sqm multipurpose space comprises the 1,000-person Ngaio Marsh Performance Theatre, lecture facilities, function centre, social and media rooms, club spaces, food and beverage offerings, and the UCSA offices. The building’s surrounds are landscaped and designed with outdoor amenities to accommodate events.  

Appointed partway through the design process, RCP’s initial focus was to rationalise the existing design and delivery strategy in close consultation with all project stakeholders. It meant breaking out packages of work. By extending the design period and separately undertaking the enabling and ground improvements prior to the main contract, RCP not only de-risked the project from a design and cost perspective, it also maintained delivery objectives and preserved the completion date. 

RCP went on to manage the developed design, programming, health and safety, procurement and contract administration. At the same time, it was tasked with overseeing the demolition and enabling works. RCP created the risk strategy to deliver the design, early works, consenting, procurement and construction within a live environment. 

The team successfully managed the building’s integration into the existing campus. It involved reconfiguring the car parking, landscaping and existing infrastructure to align with the master plan, which supported future developments and provided a significant cost benefit to the University and limited further disruptive works.  

As the UCSA is a not-for-profit organisation, budget reviews and value management were key to ensuring value-for-money was realised without compromising the functionality or reducing key design features or finishes. RCP effectively wielded its design management skills to achieve the fit-for-purpose solution on budget. 

A cultural narrative was developed, with Te Waka Pākākano facilitating iwi engagement. This informed the design response that can be seen at entrance points to the building and in its name, Haere-roa, which was gifted to the UCSA by mana whenua, Ngāi Tūāhuriri. The biggest design challenge was to ensure it was welcoming for all backgrounds. The University has a large international cohort so it was important to weave in multiple cultures into the design narrative without making it look disconnected.  

The building is not only an asset to attract students to the University, it also played a pivotal role in rebuilding the campus community. It will be an integral part of the student experience for years to come.