Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui

Wellington Central Library
  • Wellington City Council
Project Leads
  • Wellington

Te Matapihi ke te ao nui - Wellington Central Library was closed in March 2019 after engineers advised the Council that the building had seismic issues. 

The building, which was designed by Sir Ian Athfield and included input from several local and national artists was a cornerstone of the Wellington cityscape. It also provided eminence value to the community and was a huge loss when the building needed to be closed. Wellington City Council investigated a number of options and they choose to strengthen and refurbish the existing building in part to save the importance of the building to the city.

RCP was brought on board to project manage the seismic strengthening and refurbishment of the building. The project includes base isolating the existing building, expanding levels three and four, and raising the floor plate by 600mm to protect against rising sea levels.

The strengthening scheme including base isolating an existing structure is highly complex. This was identified as a key project challenge early in the project and it was identified early that Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) and more importantly temporary work design was going to be critical to the success of the project. RCP oversaw the procurement of this phase and LT McGuinness and Dunning Thornton were appointed for these roles. Their input at an early stage has seen complex temporary works design including internal piling works, structural frames for lifting and complex sequencing be integrated into the project programme. 

The project also includes designing a combined service offering – library, city archive, council service centre, and kids’ creative space Capital E. The project also seeks to improve connections to Te Ngākau Civic Square and Harris Street, provide new and enhanced building services, and create shared spaces for community and civic activities. Most importantly, perhaps, is the need to return Wellington’s much-loved community ‘living room’ to the CBD.  

RCP has brought fresh eyes to the project. Armed with a deep understanding of the Council’s goals for the space, RCP has broken the project down into bite-size chunks and developed a comprehensive plan that will allow it to reach the finish line in the desired time. Better still, it has secured buy-in from the entire project team.

Stakeholder management is another key component RCP is assisting with. Alongside the community, there will be four different user groups within the building. Each has its own perspective regarding the library’s function and it all needs to be balanced and developed over time.

The Council also has several broader goals. One is making the library more accessible to people with needs. Another is environmental sustainability, and the finished building is targeting a 5 Green Star rating. The fact that the existing building has been saved has vastly reduced its carbon impact.