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Featuring sharp angles and an industrial feel, this library building gives its suburban streetscape a definitive edge

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Basking in the sun, browsing through a stack of the latest books and magazines – sounds like something you'd do at home, rather than at a public library.

Creating this sort of relaxed environment was one of the objectives of architect Andrew Barclay of Architecture Warren & Mahoney when he designed this new library for the Kapiti Coast District Council.

"Libraries these days are a lot more interactive with computers, magazines, games and audio-visual entertainment thrown into the mix. To cater to these needs now and in the future, we needed to design a casual, user-friendly space that would make the public feel like they were at home."

As the first major civic building on the Kapiti Coast, the library's strong urban form is a blueprint for planned structures including a recreation centre and art gallery. Featuring a sculpted profile accentuated by a palette of raw materials, the building is both a reflection of and a response to its physical environment.

"Its substantial form is designed to provide a sense of linkage and movement between Kapiti Island in the distance and the town's central business district," says the architect.

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"Meanwhile, the exterior materials were left unpainted to reduce maintenance costs and provide maximum durability in a coastal climate."

The building combines a linear box clad in black zinc with a similar-sized concrete and glass element, separated by a spine of pre-cast concrete. The concrete and glass parallel walls frame the space containing the 5m-high double-height library zone.

A glazed rear wall allows visitors to look out onto landscaped gardens. A sheltered balcony on the western end allows library users to sit and read in the fresh air. The upper level reading room also spills out onto a covered verandah.

"While there are no conventional securities in place, the gardens act as a subtle barrier from the street, deterring would-be thieves," says the architect.

The building has been designed to eliminate the need for traditional air-conditioning, promoting energy savings and a healthier environment for library users, says Barclay.

A double-layer ventilated concrete slab floor system keeps temperature levels comfortable year-round. Aluminium external louvres and wide eaves help to shade the building in summer, while special double glazing has been used to control the impact of the sun in the main library space.

First published date: 12 October 2003

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Credit List

Location Paraparaumu Public Library, Kapiti
Architect Architecture Warren & Mahoney
Main contractor Fletcher Construction Wellington
Civil engineer Connell Matt MacDonald
Mechanical and electrical engineer Beca
Landscaping Boffa Miskell
Cladding Zinc
Roof Butynol
Glazing Extreme Windows from Pilkington
Ceiling Harbour City Ceiling
Veneers Melteca
Paints Resene
Office chairs Toomey Interiors
Additional furniture Simon James Design