Client: Mt Pleasant Community Association
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Cost: NZ $3.5 million
MOTM, Grant Douglas
The task to design a new Community Centre following the earthquakes of 2011 led us to question existing assumptions of construction. We wondered what a new super lean, sustainable and inspiring architecture for Christchurch might look like?
Many weeks were spent researching, walking, sketching and absorbing the context of the estuary to learn from nature’s architecture. Crustaceans and bivalves inspired us to design a strong lightweight shell architecture that could safely embrace the community and re-orientate the building north to the sun and uplift it to enjoy the daily rhythms of the estuary. To deliver a beautiful form economically we chose a repeated modular form that brought together the sustainable potentials of engineered timber together with the innovation of 3D digital prefabrication. Shell architecture is extremely light and provides the natural strength necessary to resist earthquakes with minimal material. The building shell is fabricated from 45mm thick triangular billets of cross banded LVL by Nelson Pine and held together with simple screws and a minimum of steel bracketry. 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 modeled using 3D CAD software and fabricated directly from the computer file using XLAM’s CNC bridge saw. This led to an accuracy of 3mm over 30 meters (kitchen joinery tolerances). Prototypes were essential to the design process, models were fabricated and tested throughout the process including a full scale 1:1 to ensure structure and critical details could be formed as required.