Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre boasts a fluid tiled façade

Woods Bagot and Warren & Mahoney evoke the textures of braided river beds near Christchurch, New Zealand, while melding local culture, tradition, and craft in this project.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : May 18, 2022

Presenting an image of cultural reverence and triumph in the face of adversity, Woods Bagot and Warren & Mahoney's Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre could potentially form an integral component of the city’s rebuilding in the wake of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. A devastating calamity that caused irreparable damage to both life and property, the event had major repercussions on the development of Christchurch, where the rejuvenation of damaged sections of the city is still currently in progress. In its role as an important piece of civic architecture that could be essential to the rebuilding effort, the building pays heed to the natural landscape of its context as well as the cultural traditions of indigenous people that reside within this particular region of New Zealand.

The building pays heed to the natural landscape of its context as an important piece of civic architecture completed in the wake of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
The building pays heed to the natural landscape of its context as an important piece of civic architecture completed in the wake of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake Image: Dennis Radermacher

The origins of the building's design stemmed from a flight taken by Woods Bagot architect Bruno Mendes over the Rakaia River on the way to Christchurch. As mentioned by the architects in an official release, “It was 2014 and Mendes was travelling to a workshop early in the design of the building. Seizing the opportunity to photograph the distinctive braided riverbed seeded a prescient and crucial design idea.” This experience was in certain respects, the source of the building’s distinctive façade design, which features chevron-patterned tiles that replicate the texture of river landscapes along the Canterbury Plains.

  • Bruno Mendes of Woods Bagot was inspired by the textures of river beds near Christchurch while developing the structure’s design | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    Bruno Mendes of Woods Bagot was inspired by the textures of river beds near Christchurch while developing the structure’s design Image: Dennis Radermacher
  • The project melds craft, culture, and a sensitivity to local communities through its organic exterior form | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    The project melds craft, culture, and a sensitivity to local communities through its organic exterior form Image: Dennis Radermacher
  • Ribbon-like windows cut into the folds of the envelope afford views of the surrounding context from pre function spaces | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    Ribbon-like windows cut into the folds of the envelope afford views of the surrounding context from pre function spaces Image: Dennis Radermacher

Fusing craft, culture, and a sensitivity to the homeland of the Ngāi Tahu people, the project was developed with the assistance of Puamiria Parata-Goodall, a descendant of the community and a Board Member at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch. She reflects on the reconstruction efforts in Christchurch in a press statement: “The ancestral bones of the Ngāi Tahu people are in this land. Across the rebuilt city, the new Ōtautahi (Christchurch) reflects both its Ngāi Tahu and European history. Māori language, art, and stories are recognised and celebrated like they haven’t been before.”

  • An expansive lawn occupies the space on one of the building’s sides | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    An expansive lawn occupies the space on one of the building’s sides Image: Dennis Radermacher
  • The building’s entrance has been oriented towards the Ōtākaro /Avon River | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    The building’s entrance has been oriented towards the Ōtākaro /Avon River Image: Dennis Radermacher

Facing the Ōtākaro /Avon River, the main entrance features a sculptural art installation, whose winding forms echo the geometries of the building itself. The decision to orient the built form in this manner developed as an attempt to integrate it more holistically into the city centre, where the front façade opens onto Oxford Terrace, providing an easy route towards the new waterfront of the Te Papa Ōtākaro /Avon River Precinct. Landscaping around the structure's front breaks the stretch of paved pathways leading towards it, with an expansive lawn bordering the building on one of its sides.

A sculptural art installation decorates the space preceding the entryway | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
A sculptural art installation decorates the space preceding the entryway Image: Dennis Radermacher

The building's visual imposition on the site is moderated by a fluid exterior form clad with over 43,000 Fibre C concrete skin façade panels in five different variations, that have been individually numbered and placed. Unique combinations of patterns generate gradients of colour and a gentle rhythm that complements the overall form. The perceived scale of the structure itself is somewhat reduced in this manner, especially due to the layered contours of the exterior, which evoke the mountainous terrain of New Zealand’s Southern Alps - a further reference to the story of the Ngāi Tahu.

  • Pre function and public spaces follow an organic layout, with an abundance of natural light | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    Pre function and public spaces follow an organic layout, with an abundance of natural light Image: Dennis Radermacher
  • The auditorium features seating by Poltrona Frau | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    The auditorium features seating by Poltrona Frau Image: Dennis Radermacher

Besides its instantly arresting exterior, the building's scale and program also strive to redefine norms associated with convention centres, forgoing the traditional 'big box' model. Although it can accommodate approximately 2,000 delegates at a time, much of the large functional spaces such as the auditorium (featuring seating by Poltrona Frau) and exhibition hall are concentrated towards the centre of the massing, leading to a configuration where preceding areas have unobstructed views of the river through ribbon-like windows cut into the folds of the envelope. This deviation from standards also extends to the circulation routes and public spaces throughout the building, which have been structured to seem more organic and filled with natural light - as opposed to the often 'airport-like' interiors of convention centres. In addition the program also contains meeting rooms, banquet rooms, kitchens, storage spaces, and an administrative wing.

  • Lower Floor Plan | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    Lower Floor Plan Image: Courtesy of Woods Bagot
  • Upper Floor Plan | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    Upper Floor Plan Image: Courtesy of Woods Bagot

In Bruno Mendes' view, the act of stitching the project into the urban fabric of Christchurch was an essential consideration throughout the design process, as it, in many ways, will form a core part of a visiting delegate's initial impression of the city. Moreover, the sensitivity to the site displayed in the design is also a departure from the traditional image of such a venue, which often impinges upon its context to stand out from the surrounding built environment. This point is echoed by Warren & Mahoney principal, Peter Marshall, who mentions in an official release: "The facility is a much-needed asset for the city, reflecting the identity of its place.” Mendes adds to this in a press release, stating, “From inside, framed views outwards curate the site for you. Views from the function room back to Cathedral Square; the opening out onto Victoria Square; the leaning toward the river—these were very specific moves to make the building engage strongly with what’s around it. I think that's what's special about the project. You are connected to Christchurch and it couldn't be anywhere else.”

  • Elevations | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    Elevations Image: Courtesy of Woods Bagot
  • Elevation | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    Elevation Image: Courtesy of Woods Bagot
  • Section | Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre | Woods Bagot + Warren & Mahoney | STIRworld
    Section Image: Courtesy of Woods Bagot

Comments

Comments Added Successfully!

About Author

Recommended

LOAD MORE
see more articles
3529,3309,3518,3330,3590

Keep it stirring

get regular updates SIGN UP

This site uses cookies to offer you an improved and personalised experience. If you continue to browse, we will assume your consent for the same.
LEARN MORE AGREE