News | 29 August 2022
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Te Matapihi ready for main reconstruction works after strip out complete

The existing internal structure of Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui (Wellington’s Central Library) has now been completely stripped out – and is ready for main works to start.

Central stairwell, ground floor Te Matapihi.
Central stairwell, ground floor Te Matapihi

After a sustained five month process the team from Ceres New Zealand has completed the task making the iconic building ready for the arrival of the main construction team scheduled to start in September.

James Roberts, Chair of the Te Matapihi project board at Wellington City Council, says “Te Matapihi has had all major components removed including internal walls, ducting, ceiling elements, carpet tiles, even the escalators. By stripping out the building in the way that we have, the construction company can begin major works with a clean building.” 

Paul Perniskie, Te Matapihi Project Director, Wellington City Council, says “We are very pleased with the careful and professional operation undertaken over the last five months by Ceres New Zealand.

“Our partners, Aurecon and Athfield’s developed a specification plan beforehand about what was to be demolished. But we also got Ceres to do some extra work such as the removal of the escalators, and they delivered on time. In addition, they did a lot of investigatory work for the next stage of construction.

“There is still some demolition work that will be carried out by the construction company, LT McGuinness, once they move on to the site. However, the main strip out now enables them to get on with the actual build.”

Second floor, Te Matapihi.
Second floor, Te Matapihi

Chirag Sehgal, Project Manager, Ceres New Zealand says “The strip out process was a delicate operation and labour intensive as the floor loadings were not sufficient to support large machinery. We also kept to a rigorous waste minimisation plan – much of the material we removed has been reused.”   

The design process  

Wellingtonians love their libraries, and Te Matapihi (Central Library) has a special place in their hearts. That’s why Council confirmed in 2020 that the building would be remediated to the highest standard (base isolation), following its closure to the public in March 2019. 

In 2020, work began on the design principles for Te Matapihi. This process involved consultation with the Wellington public, including mana whenua, and many other key stakeholders and partners. The feedback was clear: Wellingtonians wanted Te Matapihi to be first and foremost a safe, resilient, and future-proofed library, a centre for public knowledge, and a multipurpose, multi-use resource for the community. 

As a result of that community engagement, in April 2021 Council adopted the following design principles: (1) Engage fully with mana whenua, (2) Design for the visitor, (3) Harness the power of partnership, and (4) Make it a modern library, fit for purpose, make it Wellington! In addition, Council agreed to extend levels 3 and 4, and target a 5 Green Star rating for the building. 

Top of second stairwell, Te Matapihi.
Top of second stairwell, Te Matapihi

Earlier this year, a high level preliminary design was unveiled which underlined how the current plans will build on the existing structure to create a uniquely Wellington destination. The design will strengthen the story of mana whenua and the history of the building itself, so that the Council can continue serving Wellington’s growing communities for the next 50-75 years. 

The design increases accessibility and connection with Te Ngākau (the Civic Precinct), with three new entrances creating more connection with the surroundings, and an indoor connection to both the city and the square. In addition to a large ground floor café, people will be able to use quiet spaces and seating to read and browse the collections, or active spaces where they can meet and connect. The building will also be much brighter, with the addition of another light shaft from the ceiling to bring in natural light. 

Ground floor, Te Matapihi.
Ground floor, Te Matapihi

Strengthening and modernising Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui is one of Wellington’s largest investments that will future proof this iconic library space, increasing the resilience of the heritage building for the next 50-75 years. When Te Matapihi reopens in 2026, Wellingtonians will be able to enjoy a modern space that creates vibrancy by bringing people together in the heart of the city.

The design team

The design team includes specialists from Wellington City Libraries, Creative Capital, City Archives, Service Centre, and Experience Wellington, as well as experts in engineering, architecture, cultural and visitor experience. The external partner organisations are: Athfield Architects who designed the original building in 1991, Aurecon, RCP, RLB, Tihei, Wraight & Associates, Stoks, Norman Disney Young, Barrier Free, Art of Fact, and Māpuna.  

View of the Mezzanine, Te Matapihi.
View of the Mezzanine, Te Matapihi

Construction company LT McGuinness has also provided vital input into the design process, by engaging with the team through a formal Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) agreement. In September, the company plans to begin making the building site safe, with formal piling works scheduled to commence in early 2023.