News | 27 April 2022

Take a look at Wellington’s new Central Library design

Brighter, modern, more accessible, more connected.

Wellington City Council has released artist impressions of the preliminary design of Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui – Central Library.

Central Library preliminary design render showing view from Harris Street.

The current plans aim to build on the existing structure to create a uniquely Wellington library, that strengthens the story of Mana Whenua and history of Te Ngākau, as well as the building itself, so we can continue serving our growing communities for the next 50-75 years. 

The renders show the building’s increasing accessibility and connection with Te Ngākau Civic Precinct by moving the existing entrance via the stairs to ground level rather than mezzanine level.  

A café and seating are likely to be located in this corner entrance and will be able to stretch out into the Te Ngākau Precinct.  

Central Library preliminary design render showing view from Civic Square.

Above that corner is a new Te Whanganui a Tara room which will highlight the collection and culture of our city. It will have views out to the harbour and inner city. 

Inside, the building is proposed to be much lighter and brighter, with a light shaft from the ceiling to bring in natural light.  

Central Library preliminary design render showing view from inside northern atrium.

The design also proposes two new entrances: one from the City to Sea ramp, the other on the corner of Harris Street.  

These will create more connection with the surroundings and provide more choices to people, particularly those with accessibility needs.  

The main entrance on Victoria Street will remain. 

Central Library preliminary design render showing view from Harris Street.

We know Wellingtonians love their libraries, and the Central Library has a special place in Wellingtonians’ hearts.  

That’s why strengthening and modernising Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui is one of Wellington’s largest investments that will future proof this iconic library space and bring vibrancy to our inner city.  

When Te Matapihi reopens in 2026, Wellingtonians will see how we have built on the mana of Te Matapihi as a knowledge centre, as we increase the resilience of this heritage building for the next 50-75 years.  

Central Library preliminary design render showing view from Te Whanganui a Tara room.

Its spaces and collections will celebrate learning, creativity, art, local history and culture, by carefully curating the Library's and City Archive’s physical and digital collections.  

Young people will be able to grow their creativity using the Capital E services that will be located there, complementing the library programmes.  

As well as a large ground floor café, people will have choices to use quiet spaces and seating to read, or active spaces where they can meet, and connect.  

These high-level preliminary designs may change slightly as we finalise the space, building service and engineering requirements and go through the Resource Consent process. 

Central Library preliminary design render showing view from the air.

The design process  

After confirming the building would be remediated to the highest standard (base isolation) in October 2020, work began on the design principles for Te Matapihi.  

This involved Mana Whenua, key stakeholders, potential partners, and our library teams.  

In April 2021 the following principles were adopted:  

- Engage fully with Mana Whenua. This included an amendment to use the library’s te reo name “Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui”. This name was given by Te Taura Whiri o te reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) when the building originally opened and sits above the entrances. It reflects the Library’s purpose ‘to open windows on the wide world’.  

- Design for the visitor which is inclusive for traditional and future users, and to attract the wider population to provide an anchoring social infrastructure in the city.  

- Harness the power of partnership by integrating the Libraries, City Archive and Council Service Centre, and making it the home of Capital E. 

- Design a visitor experience that is modern, fit for the future, and that is a visitor attraction in its own right.  

The Committee also agreed to extend levels 3 and 4, and achieve a target 5-Green-Star rating.  

The design team have been working through the requirements for all the different collections, activities, services, or programmes that the building will provide, including the new floors.  

Who is involved?  

The design team includes specialist people from our Libraries, City Archives, service design and Capital E, and experts in engineering, architecture, cultural and visitor experience.  

They are: Athfield Architects who designed the building originally; Aurecon, RCP, RLB, Tihei, Art of Fact, and Māpuna.  

LT McGuiness were selected to carry out the construction and plan to preparing to begin earthworks in early 2023, depending on the resource consent process.