Located near New Zealand estuarial waters, a community building is framed with pleated edges that form a zigzag perimeter. When people arrive to a community centre they arrange their personal effects along the wall: bags, mats, towels, and water bottles. The community of Mount Pleasant has individual-sized niches along the floor so they may separate their personal belongings. The deeply creased walls are more than a consideration of human-scale spatial proportion. These rigid plywood surfaces are architecturally structural. Made from renewable natural material, the interior walls physically carry the building’s weight. This structure could be described as ‘honest’. Each piece of the building has a non-decorative architectural function.
The frontage of this building’s entrance shows a finely edged outline of pebble-colored metal cladding that envelops the walls and roof. Through the façade of windows, we see an interior warmed by light reflected from natural wood surfaces. The structural design is regulated by three spans which provide three bays for floor areas to accommodate multi-purpose community spaces. On the grounds outside the building, the pleated pattern is also observed as a spatially organizing visual theme for the community activities. The design of Mt Pleasant Community Centre was inspired by the shell structure of a bivalve that can be found in the nearby estuary.
The three main spaces defined by the structure are subdivided into smaller functional compartments to satisfy the client brief. The architect uses the term “billet” to denote the LVL (laminated veneer lumber) construction units which give an appearance of standing on pointe.
Modelling in architecture is done in many ways. It often begins with drawings that graphically show adjacent spaces. Other models may be useful for extraordinary assembled structural systems.
Exposed structures are a topic of interest to those with a keen appreciation for architecture. Exposed structures are tectonically suggestive. Their forms might reveal the pattern of a structural analysis diagram of cascading forces. During a construction process, structural issues may be a constant consideration until the building is complete and in equilibrium. A plan and schedule for assembly can be expected for such proposals.
When the structure is enclosed and protected from the weather then a building becomes a more complete, sensible and stationary structure. The corporeal parallel is not unusual. Like a body, a completed building can be perceived as a figure with strength, skeleton, skin, and systems. The recent rebuild of Mount Pleasant Community Centre is angular, yet structurally supple showing a graceful network of forces and reactions throughout the architecture of curtain-like folded planes.
Detailing in architecture is noticeable in stairs, doors, fittings and fixtures. Doors and stairs are clearly communicated by marking paths through an architected space without a need to add complicated emblems of function. The architectural interior of Mt Pleasant Community Centre is finished consistently with wood, its primary material. Neatly placed black fittings and fixtures contrast with the patina of this structural shell.
Occasionally, Architecture writes testimonials for nature and its form. These endorsements are like translations of nature’s essential traits, such as Chris Moller’s paper model of a folded wave shell structure. When innovation evolves from nature as a source of inspiration, the achievement is truly remarkable.
Chris Moller Architecture + Urbanism designed Mount Pleasant Community Centre to be a lean, lightweight structure with a design process that applied digital design technology to fabrication with sustainable materials. Chris Moller states the building form “…conceived as a folded wave shell structure… gives the structure huge strength using very minimal material”
A wood shell structure which required nearly 110 m3 of locally produced cross banded laminated veneer. The span and engineering are of suitable scale for straightforward wayfinding between the multipurpose spaces and farmers’ market area. The Mount Pleasant Community Centre is in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Written by CPG