The design of Tūranga – Christchurch’s New Central Library – is a graceful amalgamation of resilience, functionality, and cultural awareness at the centre of the redevelopment of the city after the devastating earthquakes in 2010-2011.
The loss of life and the city’s historic and social fabric meant that some of Christchurch’s liveliest places fell silent. Seventeen anchor projects, including a new central library, were identified to restore the city’s physical structures and identity by offering new places for collective memories to be made and re-create a strong sense of place, belonging, and connectivity. Libraries play a crucial role in fostering strong communities, serving as spaces that celebrate cultural diversity and engage, inspire, and inform local residents.
In the effort to support the restoration of Christchurch’s civic heart, Tūranga was not built to merely fulfil the need for a new library, but to help restore the soul of the city which includes the deep cultural heritage of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, the local Māori people.
The new library is located at the city’s geographical centre and main spot for social and recreational activities – the historic Cathedral Square. Thus, the name ‘Tūranga’ is a reference to Whitireia, the Māori name for Cathedral Square. Sitting directly opposite from the old cathedral, the two buildings reflect the bi-culturalism of the city – the coexistence of the colonial and the indigenous heralding the new Christchurch.
To ensure that the values, aspirations, and narratives of the local Ngāi Tūāhuriri people were represented in the design of the library, the Matapopore Charitable Trust was involved early in the design process. The Ngāi Tūāhuriri people’s influence on the building is substantial – from building materials to physical orientation, there is a rich tapestry of ancestry, traditional knowledge, and culture woven throughout Tūranga.
Since its completion in 2018, it has become a visually stunning symbol of hope, unity, and rebirth that will fundamentally change the way residents and visitors experience Christchurch’s city centre.