The colour and shape of the Central Library facade was inspired by the folds of the Port Hills and the triangular leaves of native harakeke flax that once grew around the site.


The inspiration for the design was derived mainly from the warm colours and rolling shadows of the Port Hills and the angular fronds of the native Harakeke flax that once grew in the swamps of Christchurch.

Library inspiration colours

The architects

Christchurch’s New Central Library building was designed by New Zealand company Architectus in partnership with Danish library design experts schmidt hammer lassen. Architectus has worked on many other civic and community projects, such as  the new Christchurch bus interchange.  schmidt hammer lassen has received more than 150 awards for its work which includes 12 libraries internationally and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Creating a welcoming atmosphere

Architect Carsten Auer describes the ground floor of the library as an extension of Cathedral Square.

“This is a building that invites people in. We want them to walk through the library in the same way they walk through the square. We want people to feel like they belong here.”

Maori cultural aspects of the design

The design was developed in discussion with Ngāi Tahu and the Ngāi Tūāhuriri rūnanga.

Openings on upper floors face culturally significant points in the Canterbury landscape and beyond:

  • Kā Tiritiri o te Moana – Southern Alps
  • Aoraki / Mt Cook
  • Horomaka / Pātaka o Rākaihautū – Banks Peninsula
  • Maungatere – Mt Grey
  • Hawaiki – according to oral traditions, one of the places of origin of New Zealand's earliest settlers.

Proposed floor lay out of the New Central Library

Ground floor

Ground floor view with large atrium

Ground floor view with large atrium

  • foyer and reception
  • displays about library services, collections and exhibitions
  • current magazines and bestsellers
  • book return area
  • technology and innovation zone for trialing new technology
  • media wall highlighting library events
  • book facilities for meeting rooms or library  tours
  • cafe and retail area  

First Floor

First floor view

First floor view

  • 200-seat community arena for debates, author talks and other public events
  • children’s material with climbing structure, play zone and bleacher seating for story times
  • activity rooms for craft sessions and interactive demonstrations
  • exhibition area
  • gaming consoles
  • quiet spaces for reading, relaxing, listening and study
  • espresso bar


Second floor

View from main stairs - large atrium

View from main stairs - large atrium

  • Oceania Centre Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa specialist collections
  • Aotearoa New Zealand, Ngāi Tahu, Pasifika and family history reference   collections
  • secure archives room
  • exhibition area for items on loan e.g. from the Alexander Turnbull collection  

Third floor

  • non-fiction collection
  • study cells and a separate quiet area for study or time out
  • meeting rooms - spaces for group learning sessions
  • staff with mobile devices available to help customers find what they need  

Fourth floor

Top floor view

Top floor view

  • fiction, large print and biography
  • film and video editing unit, music studio
  • 3D and laser printers
  • media wall
  • world languages collection
  • two outdoor terraces
  • bookable computers
  • maker spaces for crafts and other activities