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A modern library is more than books and magazines. It's ukuleles too

Updated: Mar 13

Article courtesy of Stuff.

Written by Jennifer Eder, Oct 5 2021.


A tour of Blenheim’s new library and art gallery has given a visiting Government minister an idea of how the multimillion-dollar project is shaping up.


Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash walked through the steel and concrete bones of the High St site in central Blenheim on Friday afternoon, taking a moment to admire the view across the Quays Riverside Park from the second storey.


A glimpse of the trees at The Quays Riverside Park is visible through the northeast end of the second floor. Image: Scott Hammond.

A glimpse of the trees at The Quays Riverside Park is visible through the northeast end of the second floor. Image: Scott Hammond.


Marlborough Mayor John Leggett told Nash the architects were stunned by the varied views from the site, and had designed the building to make the most of them.


The Government granted $11 million towards the $20m build last year, as part of the 'shovel ready' initiative designed to boost the economy as the country recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic.


About 15 months since the design was unveiled, the steel framing, concrete second floor and wide central staircase were in place, and the plywood for the roof had arrived.


District libraries manager Glenn Webster told Nash the new build would be a big upgrade from the 32-year-old centre on Arthur St.


The new design would help the team fulfil the role of a modern library, whether providing access to “the digital world”, creative expression, connecting with distant family, spaces for meetings, tech support for seniors, or even engaging with Government services, Webster said.


The steel framing and columns are up. The team ordered materials early and avoided delays from the national shortage. Image: Scott Hammond.

The steel framing and columns are up. The team ordered materials early and avoided delays from the national shortage. Image: Scott Hammond.


“The children’s area will be here on this corner – it looks directly at the fire station, and they’ve made sure there will be big windows, so when the fire sirens go off the children can all race over to see the fire trucks go out.”


Millennium Public Art Gallery director Cressida Bishop said she was excited to see spaces where books and art could mingle. The gallery’s collection had been steadily expanding over the last 15 years, and along with more space, the new gallery would have climate controlled storage space.


A dedicated seniors’ area would also have ground floor space, though there would also be lifts. A ground floor cafe would take in river views through tall windows. The Taylor River Reserve would be a scenic route to the library for cyclists and pedestrians, and the Wynen St car park was just across the road.


Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor, left, and Marlborough Mayor John Leggett, centre, host Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash on his tour of the construction site on Friday. Image: Scott Hammond.

Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor, left, and Marlborough Mayor John Leggett, centre, host Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash on his tour of the construction site on Friday. Image: Scott Hammond.


Construction was to be finished by the end of next year, though the fit-out and moving the books and artwork would push the grand opening into 2023.


Site manager Nick Robinson said the construction project was fortunate to have avoided delays from the national materials shortage by ordering most of it at the start of the project, and likely also avoided the price escalations that had followed the shortages.


Some raw materials came from Australia, steel came from China, and parts were manufactured in Christchurch, before the materials were delivered to a warehouse.


“We did have a slight delay over Covid, but we’re actually on target,” Robinson said.

The work had been straightforward except for the angular roof, a novel challenge for the team, he said.


Project manager Luke van Velthooven told Nash the foundations included a concrete raft to evenly distribute movement in earthquakes. An example of concrete raft foundations was the Christchurch Art Gallery which was undamaged during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.


Nash was in Marlborough for forestry and regional economic development events, including the planting of a new generation of drought-resistant eucalypts in the Awatere Valley, a tour of the new wine research centre being built at the Blenheim NMIT campus with a $3.8m loan from the Provincial Growth Fund, and a visit to the Kaituna Sawmill.