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Whangarei Central Library's History

Information about the new Central Library building design and a brief history of the old Central Library building.
Updated: 25/08/2019 5:03 p.m.

Building design theme

The theme for the Whangarei Central Library developed around the 'Baskets of Knowledge' ('He Kete Wananga'), referring to the universally known legend of Tane’s climb into the heavens.

Tānenuiarangi retrieved the baskets of wisdom from the celestial realm or heavens, known in Māori dculture as Rangi-tū-hāhā.  He climbed to the uppermost heaven on the sacred vine (aka matua), and there he obtained the three baskets of knowledge.  

  • Te Kete Tuāuri contained the understanding we build up of the real world
  • Ko Te Kete Tuātea contained the knowledge we experience in ritual and prayer
  • Te Kete Aronui contained all worldly knowledge used in both positive and negative situations and translates as ‘that before us’ or the natural world.

When Tānenuiarangi descended from the heavens he established pou (wānanga) or pillars of higher learning on earth. These wānanga became training establishments of the tohunga (priests), who in turn relayed this higher learning on to society in portions that could be understood.

This legend reflects many Māori belief systems regarding the sacred nature of learning, and fits very neatly with the library concept.

Just as the marae in Māori society is a focal point for the spiritual, ancestral, chiefly and tribal values of the community, the public library provides space for the community to meet and to focus on information by and about the community.

Libraries are repositories for unique information relating to local history and cultural memory, and they collect, organize, preserve and provide access to it.

Paving design

Designer: Toi Maihi
The weaving pattern in the paving design in font of the Whangarei Central Library represents the connection from the heavens to the earth flowing into the building.

In Māori history the creation story talks about separation of Ranginui and Papatuanuku by their children. This paving design is the emotional response of Ranginui in relation to that separation.

Ranginui starts to cry gently - represented by dark stones on the paving - crying intensifies - more dark stones - sobbing - flood of tears at entrance forging its way through the doorway into the library.

Central Library history

On 12 November 1936 a new library was opened on Rust Avenue.

The building, designed by A. P. Morgan and H. L. Massey was described as the "ultimate in modern design, both in the building itself and in the interior fittings" (Northern Advocate 11 November 1936).

It won the Gold Medal of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

In 1964-65 major internal reorganising of the space with the addition of a new workroom extended the building's useful life.

However, in 1970 Peter McNaught drew up plans for major additions, but these were not implemented until the 1980's. In the meantime, minor additions and reorganisation gave temporary relief.

The extended building was opened on 26 March 1983. The design of the new extension was based on the notion that a pleasing contrast was more appropriate than trying to match building materials from the 1930's.

The old Library finally closed in March 2006, replaced by the new building behind it.



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