Winner 2019

Award for
Structures in Extreme Conditions

Project Description

A new central library built following the devastating 2010-2011 earthquakes in Christchurch. Tūranga was constructed to very stringent seismic performance criteria and features state-of-art seismic resisting systems.

Judge’s comments

The concept for this five-storey, 10,000m2 library was inspired by the 2010-2011 earthquakes that affected Christchurch, New Zealand, where the majority of buildings remained safe, but a great number were uneconomic to repair and required demolition.

Tūranga’s hidden beauty lies in its level of seismic resilience, such that after a serious seismic event, the shock absorbing systems could be readily replaced and the building would be re-usable.

The massive concrete core walls, some weighing around 140 tonnes, were cast flat on site and then “tilted up”. They provide stability to the building and in a seismic event are able to “rock” due to their connection to the foundations and to adjacent components being made with replaceable shock-absorbing devices. They work in conjunction with a perimeter steel moment resisting frame which also has rocking base connections.

The engineers were instrumental in encouraging plant, that would have been positioned in a basement, to be placed on the roof, allowing the proposed basement to be removed from the scheme. This enables the building to be constructed off a shallow gravel layer, avoiding both the expensive basement and costly piled foundations.

A great example of how structural engineers can make such a crucial difference to a building, this is in every sense - a building that rocks!

Project overview

Structural Designer

  • Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers

Client Name

  • Christchurch City Council (Southbase Construction)


  • Christchurch, New Zealand


  • Architectus / Schmidt Hammer Lassen

Principal Contractor

  • Southbase Construction

Key Contractors

  • Christchurch City Council – ​Building owner/ developer

    Ruamoko Solutions – ​Structural peer reviewer

    Prof. Stefano Pampanin – Specialist peer reviewer of hybrid walls

    Prof. Brendon Bradley – Site specific seismic hazard analysis

    Dr. Geoffrey Rodgers – HF2V damper design

    Tonkin + Taylor – ​Geotechnical engineer

    Images: © Adam Mork (1)