Visitor Information Centre
The i-site commission was won in an architectural competition. The brief included restoring the historic existing building and activating the rivers edge. The completed new Information centre is the focus of this area and integrates with the precinct, as an unique Wanganui building and a model of heritage adaptive reuse. The existing building had some fantastic material qualities, meaning the original structure and its architectural volumes have been restored and adapted. The building was cut off from the rivers edge, and a few simple moves were introduced to address the issues; a central courtyard garden brings light and ventilation deep into the footprint.
The Wanganui Centre is a destination in its own right, a place visitors will come to visit as much as they will come to for information, and with a real historic integrity that no amount of marketing can manufacture. The design is about the river and is focused towards the river, and leading you to the river. Terraced floors were introduced to step you down towards the river and on the north side, a linear deck and canopy, a sun trap in the place people will naturally want to gravitate to - the sunny place overlooking the river.
An atrium void was formed through the centre front of the building to visually link, and provide access between the upper and lower levels, while the joists that came out of the light wells are reused as part of the long reception desks. The rivers edge side of the building was opened up to the river views with a long site to use and new extensive glazing. Adaptive reuse of an existing building is an important environmentally sustainable model for building in Wanganui. Even though this building has been refitted, reclad and brought up to current codes, it is still regenerating existing building patterns. It also cost in the order of a third less than the equivalent area, while achieving the quality of a new building.
The building tenants d the Cafe. Quay Glass Gallery, Museum of Glass, The Wanganui experience virtual, Wanganui shop and i-site together all add up to a very different visitor centre experience than you will find in nearby towns.
The new structure was also upgraded to include underfloor heating, high insulation values and passive systems. It demonstrates to Wanganui locals and New Zealand how heritage fabric can be respected, restored and adapted to give it a new life. It has a lift and sprinklers allowing changes in building use to occur, and a flexible design that is easily reconfigurable in the future.