“Te Pokapū Hapori Community Centre is a place for all. Our design focuses on texture, colour, and lighting to create a welcoming environment for the local community. In the end all we have done is provide a decorated shell to house the most important thing, which is the activities of the community. That’s the real centre.”

John Ercolano, Senior Architect and Project Lead, Workspace Architect Ltd

The inner-city population of Wellington has swelled dramatically over the last decade. But these are not confined to apartment dwellers; they include migrants, rough sleepers, the disadvantaged, and those in social housing. The council was concerned that many of these people would have various needs that were not being suitably supported or addressed, unlike their suburban counterparts who had a local centre with programs and assistance. And so a lease was taken out on a very central and visible ground floor tenancy on Manners St, directly opposite Te Aro Park, that would become a community centre for all.

The facility needed to be multi-purpose, allow for different activities, and deal with the acoustic challenges faced by extroverts, introverts, groups, and hard surface reverberation. However the premises were just a bare shell, a long narrow space with virtually no plumbing & drainage services, no heating, and challenging ventilation services. And, large structural concrete beams not only restricted services reticulation but also meant that a standard suspended ceiling would feel low and oppressive.

Our design solution was to leave most of the space open, with as few rooms as possible to keep the main area flexible. The underside of the ceiling slab is painted out black to give an illusion of volume. We’ve addressed the acoustic attenuation with a combination of coloured triangular panels on the ceiling to draw the eye, and black suspended panels to conceal. Different lights are used to define zones: high over the main areas, then lowering at the rear with suspended fittings for a domestic feel in the communal kitchen. It is a practical yet vibrant space to be enjoyed by all.


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