Landcare 1

Te Rauhitanga – Landcare Research


Warren And Mahoney

9. Hybrid building award

Photographed by: 
Nancy Zhou

The existing Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research (MWLR) campus was a disjointed and disparate collection of buildings, with an ad-hoc, cellular and confusing layout. Over time, this had resulted in siloed staff and a poor work culture. Concealed by extensive planting – much of which comprised mature and important native plant specimens - the entrance was difficult to find, and the street presence was limited.

The brief was to provide new standalone open-plan office building for 80 staff, with associated collaboration spaces and facilities for staff and external stakeholder groups. The aim was to support the delivery of exceptional science, improve collaboration and build a stronger culture within MWLR.

By re-orienting the entry towards the northwest, the architects Warren and Mahoney provided a clear public entrance, and visually connected MWLR with other Crown Research Institutes (AgResearch, Plant and Food, DairyNZ) and Lincoln University, to form a land-based science hub.

This strategic move enabled a new linear spine which unifies the site in a simple gesture. Here, now forming the heart of the site, is a double height, fully glazed atrium framed by a colonnade of imposing LVL portals, dedicated to staff wellbeing – formal collaboration or informal interaction, lunch or morning tea, breakout or relaxation; an enabler of spontaneity.

The considered use of naturally finished LVL gives the atrium a natural, authentic materiality, warm and inviting, as befits a staff-centric area. Luxuriously lit from the north and the south, it forms a visual and material contrast to the cool and sophisticated aesthetic of the office wing. Access from both sides lead to lawns, outdoor decks, native planting and mahinga kai (kitchen gardens), enhancing the bond between both the people and the land, a key request of staff.

Upon arrival, the first sight of timber construction –a view framed by the retained kauri specimen descended from the mighty Tane Mahuta in Waipoua – is a series of sculptural glulam columns. These innovatively use precise connections and careful geometry to create the illusion of a highly complex structure curved in three dimensions, but in fact formed from cost-effective flat billets.

Beyond this, LVL was used throughout the new Main Street as primary structure – by relying on the existing buildings, bracing was not required. Exposed LVL floor joists provide a textural, functional ceiling in the mezzanine area. Finally, domestic scale LVL profiles were used to form open balusters around stairs and the mezzanine.

In addition to the beautiful materiality of exposed LVL, a cost and resource benefit was obtained by eliminating unnecessary finishing and lining costs.

The contrast between the business-as-usual office wing and the timber-framed Main Street provided the opportunity to study the different carbon costs of each – this showed that use of timber reduced carbon by 62kg/m2 (662 vs 600kg/m2). However, the 100% FSC timber used provides a further reduction to an overall rate of 395kg/m2. This – combined with MWLR’s reforestation programme – will result in a net carbon-Zero build.