Designing a Cultural Centre in New Zealand must respect all cultures, most particularly the local culture. The Principal Architect on this Project wrote an extensive research report in 1993 on the “Representation of Minority culture in Majority Western Country”. (A copy of this report is available at School of Architecture, University of Auckland). The report identified one strong element that architecture ought to acknowledge: that is the local environment, including its people. New Zealand is an island nation, largely agricultural, and timber producing. The concept of the Cultural Centre here is sprung from the idea of a “barn”; celebrating timber as a primary material; and is planned nautically as a “waka” – a Maori canoe. New Zealand is full of rolling plains and the Cultural Centre has been designed as if it’s been carved out of a rolling plain. Looking at it from a distance, it’s shape resembles the moon rising over the horizon. Ideally the concept of this centre was inspired with Earth having taken a deep breath in and thus puffed out a dome shape inside.
The spaces in the Cultural Centre are in line with the intended use of the building – spiritual, education, and multipurpose. The mezzanine floor enables the men-women separation. The front–mid bay separation enables the separation between pure spiritual and multipurpose. Car parking and landscaping has been oriented to enhance the form and function. The minaret design symbolises the trunk of a tree around which a spiral stairwell leads the user to a platform at the top. From here, the eye is led to a wider horizon and view to sight the new moon. The spiral stair is a 3D reflection of the “Koru” a traditional Maori art symbolising growth. In New Zealand due to restrictions on sound, minarets have lost their original function of being a place of making the call to prayer. Instead, the minaret here will provide an experience of rising up to be thankful of the Almighty’s gift to us.
A New School to Cater from Age 1 Through to Adult.
The Ministry of Education of New Zealand has been allocating considerable resources and energies towards appropriate school design guidelines. We have had input into such works before and appreciate that the teaching systems in schools have evolved over the years. 21st Century Learning (or “Future Learning”) is the key phrase within Ministry handbooks. Therefore whilst the madrassa on this site is to be a religious educational facility, it seems both wise and very fruitful that the design is in consideration of MOE requirements. The form is simple with the overall school plan in a T-shape. These forms two courtyards – one for the seniors, the other for the junior. The building has two stories. All the rooms have one length exterior wall as set of doors that open into courtyard/corridor hence providing extension of space and facilitating multipurpose usage. The entrance of the school, bus drop off and road front are all planned such that children’s safety and visual security are paramount in daily activities.
The design of the traveller accommodation units (for visitors to the Vocational Centre) has resulted in a facility with multipurpose ability – to house families for a short duration; teachers or individuals. The units are 1 bedroom flats with a private back yard.
Recreation Centre and Swimming Pool
The design of these facilities is typically of MOE School Gymnasiums designed around NZ schools. The Mezzanine floor offers not only greater views of the Sports field and whole site but also a space for conferencing or a special occasion facility. The swimming pool designed proportionately smaller to be in keeping with the heights of the Traveller lodge whist the Gymnasium is taller to match the proportions of the Madrassa.
The facility includes a kitchen/canteen and the hall can host functions that cannot be hosted in Mosque space.