The task to design a new Community Centre presented a huge challenge. The Christchurch earthquakes destroyed our old assumptions of construction. How could we utilise this opportunity to innovate a new generation of strong, safe, lean architecture? Could we make a critical shift in our design approach by combining lightweight structures with sustainable materials and 3D digital (BIM) direct to manufacture prefabrication?
Inspiration came from contemplating the estuary and its creatures such as crustations (bivalve shellfish) which have adapted to this habitat over 500 million years. The building was concieved as a folded wave shell structure. This gives the structure huge strength using very minimal material. The shell is made of thin 45mm triangular billets of cross banded LVL (laminated veneer lumber) produced locally by Nelson Pine. A 25 year old pine tree produces 1m3 of LVL. The building required approximately 110m3 of LVL equivalent to 1/3 hectare (1/3 of a rugby field). The project was fully modeled using 3D CAD software and the 3D components directly fabricated from the computer file using XLAM's CNC bridge saw. This is as close as to 3D printing a building. This lead to an accuracy of 4mm over 28 meter width of the building and is equivalent to the tolerances you would expect in kitchen joinery.
FOLDED -WAVES: the wave-like folded surfaces were fabricated from triangular billets screw fixed via steel nodes into strong stable surfaces to form the entire shell structure and skin. Primary spatial elements within a singular system were machine cut off-site and crane lifted in paired sub-assemblies on site. Its exterior skin is made from PIR insulated metal panels for high insulation, strength and minimal wetted surface (like a boat or shell).
LEAN: Architecture and Engineering are designed as one to integrate skin, structure and services in a highly performative minimal flexible envelope. The design of the building celebrates how it was made revealing not only the raw structure of LVL but also its metal fixings, mechanical equipment and services which provide the detail and decoration of the spaces.
LIFT: the mezzanine level lifts the Activity Studio and Atrium Balcony providing magnificant views across the estuary and good quality natural light.
FLOW: The spatial weave of the building houses a broad variety of different activities from exhibitions, workshops, farmers market, social functions, music, fitness and dance activities in an efficient flexible way to enable easy access and confinous flow between rooms and inside to outside, enabling adjacent spaces to be used simultaneously.