Tūranga will foster life-long learning and be the place for information, inspiration and entertainment.

Artist's impression of Turanga

The library will occupy a prominent site on the corner of Gloucester Street and Cathedral Square.

At about 9,850m2, it will be the largest public library in the South Island. It will support 19 community, digital, and mobile libraries which last year hosted 3.7 million visits and issued almost 4.5 million items.


Artist's impressions of Tūranga


Port Hills and flax


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.


Tūranga's 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.


Tūranga will have new spaces, equipment and programmes not found in traditional libraries.

Innovation and technology

View of outdoor terrace at the New Central Library

Artist's impression of the outdoor terrace at Tūranga.

  • up to 100 computers
  • innovation zone for trialing new technology
  • free Wi-Fi and internet access
  • 3D and laser printers

Creative spaces

  • music, film and video editing studios
  • rooms for activities such as craft sessions

Meeting spaces

  • boardroom and meeting rooms

Entertainment spaces

  • 200-seat community arena for performances, author talks and public debates
  • exhibition area
  • media walls with digital displays about events and activities
  • children’s play zone

Relaxing spaces

  • quiet reading room
  • outdoor roof terraces
  • café and espresso bar
  • ground-floor retail area.


Tūranga will occupy a prominent site on the corner of Gloucester Street and Cathedral Square.

The Christchurch Central Recovery Plan recognises that Tūranga will assist in activating the Square and will be strongly connected to the Convention Centre Precinct and the Performing Arts Precinct, and also linked to the Avon River Precinct and the Margaret Mahy Memorial Playground.

Residents have expressed their desire to be able to easily access central-city amenities by car, bike, public transport or walking, and that the new library should be conveniently linked to other key destinations within the inner city. Importantly, the creation of a barrier-free library will facilitate the use of the library by people of all abilities and at all stages of life.


The Council's total budgeted cost for the building and land is $92.7 million. The Crown originally acquired the land and the Council then purchased it from the Crown and carried out the land remediation.

Central Library history

In 1859 the Mechanics Institute opened a small subscription library in High Street and a few years later it moved to Cambridge Terrace. This building was later converted into offices and was demolished after the earthquakes.

Cambridge Terrace Library

The Council took over management of city library services in 1948 and a new Warren and Mahoney-designed building opened on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Gloucester Street in 1982.

By 2008 the library was too small and the Council agreed to look at options for replacing it. In 2011 the Old Central Library was badly damaged in the earthquakes. Plans to repair it were dropped after the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan earmarked the site for the new convention centre and it was demolished.

A temporary library in Tuam Street provided library services in the central city until the site was needed for the Justice and Emergency Services Precinct.

The old Central Library, corner of Oxford Terrace and Gloucester Street.

Since then, two temporary libraries in Peterborough and Manchester streets have served the central city and will continue to do so until Tūranga opens in mid-2018.


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