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Striking New Civic Centre “…A Joy to Work In”

The journey from a local authority that offered a “fish and chip shop” reception area to one that celebrates “democracy delivered” has seen the Kapiti Coast’s new civic centre win a 2013 NZIA Local Architecture Award.

By the Council’s own frank admission its previous office was “long past its use-by date and no longer fit for purpose.” The $9.2m project to rectify this state of affairs involved a judicious mix of gutting its existing premises, refurbishing, strengthening, demolishing one part — and adding an eye-catching addition that extends the building’s use-by date well into the 21st century.

A dramatically glazed public entrance and atrium used Altherm’s Flushglaze commercial system to flood the reception area with light. Meeting tables and sofas now make this a place for ratepayers  to linger rather than avoid, perhaps one definition of “democracy delivered.”

The judges’ citation for the NZIA commercial Architecture Award noted that while the building was completed on a limited budget, it delivered an environment that was “a joy to work in and to visit.” 

The old council building had originally been built for a bank. When acquired by the Kapiti Coast District Council it offered cramped office space, a small public area, no private meeting space and no lift access to the second floor. “Every time a truck went past the whole building would shake,” says architect Neil Kemp, of Design Group Stapleton Elliott (DGSE), in Wellington, project director for the civic centre job. “Now staff see a truck go past and hear nothing.” Double glazing was installed in most offices.  A combination of Altherm flushglaze and structural glaze windows were used.  

Extensive seismic upgrades on the refurbished southern half of the centre can be seen in the diagonal steel beams that are visible through the windows. As well as the 150 staff members enjoying a better work environment, elected officials also have gained in the rebuild — new mayoral offices have been provided along with a sleek new council chamber.

DGSE have had significant prior experience in local authority work, completing commissions for the Horowhenua District Council, and both the Palmerston North City and District Councils.

The Altherm manufacturer for the Kapiti Coast project was Altherm Window Systems, of Palmerston North. The builder was Armstrong Downes Commercial, of Wellington.


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