Awarua – Gisborne District Council

Gisborne


Ideas

In July 2014 Gisborne District Council ran a competition to find a project team that could understand Council’s requirements and turn them into the perfect Concept Design.

Our team involving Chow Hill Architects, Greenstone Group (project managers), Opus (structural/civil/geotechnical engineers), eCubed (services consultants), PCD Fire Designs, and Rider Levett Bucknall (quantity Surveyors) was selected as the winner and commissioned to carry out the project. We were also successful with a similar competition for the H B Williams Memorial Library, details of which can be found elsewhere.

 

Transformation

The project involved the bold move of demolishing the old council building, made up of an assortment of building elements extended and upgraded over several decades. The strategy was politically sensitive for a public concerned with budgets and a project timescale straddling an election year. However, the approach was vindicated when the old building was found to be riddled with asbestos and structural shortcomings. The brief was to deliver a modern, dynamic working space which was smaller and more efficient than the building it replaced. The building was to reflect the cultural diversity and history of the people it serves, whilst accounting for practical concerns, such as low maintenance liabilities and energy efficiency. Greenstone Group’s role was to capture the voice of the many project stakeholders and refine the brief to balance these requirements with the available
budget.

 

Reality

The project successfully navigated unwelcome discoveries including widespread ground contamination, geotechnical weakness and failures of pre-existing infrastructure. It did this with a contracting workforce largely comprised of local labour and talent, despite the scale of the project far exceeding local norms. The resulting asset is a credit to Gisborne Council and the people it serves, being both accessible and efficient. The building is characterised by its promotion of transparency in local government, low-maintenance design and flexibility of purpose. The name Awarua, means two waters, and represents strength from the joining of cultures. The design, shape and features of Awarua are based on a double hulled canoe (waka). This illustrates the significant history of our region and the pathways that we’ve traveled.