Wellington Central Library finally allowed to start construction – three years after it closed

The central staircase to the ground floor. Photo / Provided

After five months of work, Wellington’s main central library has been stripped down and is finally ready for construction.

The existing internal structure of Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui is now empty ahead of construction which will begin in September.

Te Matapihi had all major components removed, including interior walls, ductwork, ceiling elements, carpet tiles and even escalators.

The central staircase to the ground floor.  Photo / Provided
The central staircase to the ground floor. Photo / Provided

The library has been closed since being deemed an earthquake risk in March 2019 and is not expected to reopen until 2026.

City councilors have agreed to reinforce the building with basic insulators, which is expected to cost $187.4 million.

Paul Perniskie, director of the Te Matapihi project, said he was pleased with the “careful and professional operation” undertaken over the past five months by Ceres New Zealand.

On the second floor.  Photo / supplied
On the second floor. Photo / supplied

Opened in 1991, the library is listed as a Category 1 historic place – the first in the 1990s. It is considered significant due to its architecture by Ian Athfield.

Chirag Sehgal of Ceres New Zealand said the operation was delicate and intensive, as the flood loads were not great to support such large machines.

The ground floor.  Photo / supplied
The ground floor. Photo / supplied

“We also followed a rigorous waste minimization plan – much of the material we removed was reused.”

The new bookcase design is lighter and brighter as it has an additional skylight to bring in the sun.

Wellington City Council has released artists' impressions of the preliminary design for Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui, the central library.  Picture / Provided
Wellington City Council has released artists’ impressions of the preliminary design for Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui, the central library. Picture / Provided

The design also features new entrances from the City to Sea ramp and another at the corner of Harris Street. The main entrance on Victoria Street will remain.

The design team included Athfield Architects, who originally designed the building; Aurecon, RCP, RLB, Tihei, Art of Fact and Mapuna.

LT McGuiness has been selected to carry out the construction and plans to prepare to start earthworks early next year, subject to the resource clearance process.

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