Ranui Library, on the fringe of Auckland City and Waitakere ranges was commissioned to create a sense of identity for Ranui’s small town centre.
Artist Nic Moon and Jasmax architect Lars von Minden collaborated to combine architectural, artistic and prosaic demands, while attempting to reflect the diverse community’s aspirations.
Ranui’s environmental and human history provided inspiration for an integrated approach to the building design and public art project.
Ranui is an area with some challenging social issues (it is rated as 10/10 on the national deprivation index) while also being home to Earthsong (an innovative urban cohousing development that is a model of socially and environmentally sustainable urban living).
Nic and Lars searched for ways to include the community in the consultation, design and creation of this new community space.
A small team ground clay, sourced from the building site and local hills before construction began. They then created buckets of clay-slurry paint readiness for the community project. A huge stencil was applied to the 9m x 6m concrete wall.
The result was a very nervous weekend for the contractor and project manager. A nine metre scaffold carrying 500 locals (including many children), and 20 buckets of clay-pigmented slurry were used for Nic’s centrepiece in the Library’s atrium living room.
A series of tree silhouettes was applied to the wall as a stencil before the community swarmed into the construction site to fill the wall with their signature handprints.
The resulting artwork, a nine metre high forest, filled with thousands of earth handprints forms the central narrative for the building’s architecture. This process allowed the community a rare insight and hand in the construction of their new library.
Continuing the indigenous forest concept, a corten steel canopy, lazer cut with Kauri forest imagery wraps around three sides of the building.
Sunlight passing through the canopy casts dappled light onto the library floor.
The Living Room space at the heart of the library includes a fire, to encourage the community to gather for warmth, companionship and inspiration.
A semi-circular ‘volcano rug’ rests beneath the fire. The pattern makes reference to the ancient Waitakere Volcano that erupted in the sea to the west, creating the Waitakere Ranges. The rug is hand-tufted wool and was made in collaboration with Dilana Workshop.
A series of old shovels have been incised (plasma cut) with native plant leaf skeleton patterns sourced from the local forest. The vines that climb the ancient tree trunks are painted into the handles. These shovels make reference to the gardens, farms, orchards and vineyards of the area’s history and the contemporary community planting projects that are restoring life to local ecosystems.
“A forest can inspire a sense of connection, contemplation and inspiration. These are also qualities that I associate with a library”. Nic Moon
“Libraries are not made; they grow.” Augustine Birrell