Whakatane Library & Exhibition Centre repurposes a large abandoned building to revitalize an area of big box retail and carparking left devoid of urban life.
Following recent development of new commercial outlets away from Whakatane's town centre, Te Koputu a te Whanga a Toi : Whakatane Library & Exhibition Centre repurposes a large abandoned building to revitalize an area of big box retail and carparking left devoid of urban life.
Accommodating library, museum and gallery facilities, this is an architecture researched and developed through consideration of how an abandoned ‘big box'' retail space can be reconnected back to public use and encourage greater library and cultural participation within a lower decile and indigenous Maori community.
With a limited budget of $3million NZ (approx. $1.5million GBP) fabric changes are prioritized to provide light and views into and out of the open span space. Perimeter concrete panels are removed and replaced with glazing and inbuilt perimeter timber furnishings, physically reconnecting urban pedestrians with library users to advertise the act of reading a book to the wider community.
A new overhead canopy rescales and integrates the now civic building to an existing raised public lawn and pathway, whilst providing shade and space for urban repose.
Internally a light well is formed behind the entry to allow natural cross ventilation and semi-external teaching areas. Timber detailing extends to define entry and areas of communal use, while delineating separate library and museum facilities either side of entry.
The museum and exhibition area delivers environmentally sustainable and flexible space to support a range of display approaches, ranging from semi-permanent museum to art installations and travelling exhibitions. Workroom and office functions are located toward the rear of the building, leaving the remaining floor area free for flexible library stack and viewable activity space.
Opened in June 2012, and with dramatically increased visitor numbers to both library and museum, Te Koputu a te Whanga a Toi has already begun to revitalize the community and surrounding retail area, and is now leading to further re-evaluation of the nature of big box retail within New Zealand's provincial built environment.