Ara’s Kahukura only NZ building honoured in Australasia learning environment awards

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07 Jun 2018

Kahukura, designed by leading New Zealand architecture firm, Jasmax, earned a commendation in Learning Environments Australasia's 11th Annual Awards for Excellent in Educational Facilities. It was the only building in New Zealand to be honoured at the awards from a highly competitive shortlist of 58 buildings from New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.

Learning Environments Australasia is the peak body advocating for quality and innovation in learning environments to enhance student outcomes. They seek to raise awareness of the integral interplay between teaching, learning methodology and space. The awards showcase architects and educators working together to produce excellent educational facilities.

One of the greenest buildings in the Canterbury rebuild, Kahukura has been designed to accommodate future-focused and collaborative learning. Structure, services and materials are on display to enable this very sustainable building to be a ‘learning device’ for the students and teachers that work within it.

Kahukura is one of the country’s first built examples of a large scale (three storey and 6,500 square metres), timber construction building. Lightweight construction and a significant gesture to environmentally sustainable design, and the use of innovative wood technologies such as CLT in this building positions NZ in line with countries worldwide who are using this design and construction method on mass scale.

Architect Richard Hayman, who led the Jasmax project team, says: “It’s incredibly powerful when a building is recognised for its design on an international stage. Kahukura is different from other institutional buildings in its ability to act as a learning tool for the architecture and engineering students, as well as house them. Ara showed incredible commitment to sustainable design too – there aren’t many projects with clients who will go with you on the journey to push the boundaries of architectural and structural innovation, and put 400 solar panels on its roof.”

Kahukura opened in August 2017. Tony Gray, Ara Chief Executive, says: “Kahukura inspires our engineering and architectural studies students every day. It has already hosted many events, from industry ‘speed meets’ with students and awards to fashion runway shows and student exhibitions. We are very happy to see this building recognised for its innovative learning spaces, flexibility, cultural alignment and sustainability.”

The judges commented: “This project is characterised by a thoughtful planning process with strong user group engagement alongside excellent understanding and utilisation of local culture and iconography. The building is full of pedagogical, cultural and community building possibilities. The building’s strength lies in its possibilities. Ara strongly represents its community through the possibilities it presents for use after hours as its strong attention paid to the local Māori and Pasifka culture and story. The physicality of the Kahukura is conveyed through the façade’s stern strength and internal warmth communicated through the use of timber and light filled voids. There are many pedagogical possibilities moving forward – this is clearly a building that will grow with its occupants over time.”