Clients: South Wairarapa District Council
Landscape: Wraight and Associates
The Martinborough Town Hall is the realization of a bold new vision that brings its multiple community groups together in a warm embrace.
Identity matters within any community project; to understand this, you must understand the people who live, work and engage in that environment. The overall inspiration for the community center came from the unique landscape of the Wairarapa region, the heroic town founders and the vibrant local community. The restoration and extension of the 106-year-old Martinborough Town Hall into a bustling, multi-purpose community hub is at the core of this project.
The new facility is home to a library, café, back-of-house support spaces, visitor center, and Plunket – a not-for-profit national health service providing support services for the development, health, and wellbeing of children and their families under the age of five. The center unites like-minded groups to achieve a concentration of activity and opportunities for increased interaction between community groups. The result is a well-connected, culturally enlivened focal point at the heart of Martinborough Town Square, collocated under one roof. The design response upgrades the much-loved and enduring Town Hall by seismically strengthening the building in a sympathetic and unobtrusive manner while retaining existing heritage qualities by refining the entry sequence.
The new extension relates to the heritage building by expression of scale, juxtaposing the lightweight timber and steel, transparent and open structure against the robust form of the Town Hall. A glazed seismic separation fixes the veranda-like extension to the existing Town Hall, acknowledging the old and new. The design is conceived as a simple ‘lean-to’ or ‘veranda’ structure, inspired by the ‘covered yard’, a consistent and memorable shed-like form reflected in Wairarapa’s rural landscape. This simple form is articulated further by the exposed column and beam truss, allowing large spans that result in flexible internal spaces. In response to the Martinborough climate, the ‘covered yard’ extends to form a true veranda, providing shelter over the edge of the new exterior playground. Horizontal terraces form a subtle amphitheater-like outdoor event space.
The new facility represents a contemporary design response to the rural vernacular. The community hub feels familiar and inviting with a domestic friendliness that provides the backdrop to the adjacent park (future staged development) and fosters stronger connections to Martinborough Square. All changes were approached with the mantra ‘minimum necessary’ and edited out earlier unsympathetic structural upgrades. The new seismic upgrade and additions are compatible with the original fabric but sufficiently distinct that they are read as new work. A true community collaboration between the South Wairarapa District Council and the Waihinga Charitable Trust, community members offered grants and donations, fundraising $2.3 million of the $5.33 million total spend to complete this transformational project.