Porchester Road Project - Architects Commentary
Architect’s Statement / Commentary
We take it to be a privilege and honour whenever we get invited to work on Islamic Projects offering Architecture design that represents a Muslim Minority in Majority Western State. This Project is even more special as it not only becomes a representation but also an experience of our Islamic Ideals. This has been our speciality for over 24 years and it is a blessing to be able to share our comments on this project and its design. We have, right from the outset, advised FIANZ the potential of this project to be a greater example of an Environmentally Friendly Project. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), taught early Muslims that the environment is Allah’s blessing on us and we have to leave it better than how we found it. The environment is not just about greenery but brings in every element including people, buildings, animals, inter-relations etc. As Registered Architects and Accredited Professionals of New Zealand Green Star we are obliged to design all buildings with inherent environment friendly aptitude. As A Muslim firm we’re proud to say we have acquired this as part of our faith in Allah and his Messenger (peace be upon him). Once engaged as Architects, we discussed with incumbent Town Planner David Hays and many of our intellectual colleagues and experts in various fields whose advice has been instrumental to helping us bring the maximum site potential. We encourage the reader of the design to seek a fuller understanding of its purose and greater satisfaction by reading what is below, together with the floor plans and 3D animated video we have produced.
The site was previously zoned Rural and has now been rezoned as Future Urban. The 40,000sqm of site is fairly flat and offers a great, open air feel such as one gets on a typical farm. There is a newly built farm house with vast land to look at in the horizon. Despite being located very close to motorways and public transport there is very little street noise from traffic. The adjacent site – a community centre of another ethnic/religious faith group – may have helped the council to be more open to accepting such a development on this site. New Zealand has a very strong farming sector, so choosing a farm to set up an Islamic Vocational Village is a perfect match. The site has several challenges that consultants are working to correct. One challenge that cannot be dealt with in a hurry is the Power post with high voltage cabling on the far east of the site. We have identified that in this one area fixed habitable space cannot be designed. However, the area is safe enough for use with short-term outdoor activities such as picnics.
In the master plan we have addressed the brief of the community and stake holders and looked at following issues in our discussions:-
1) Short term council challenges,
2) Midterm, and
3) Long term (the need to make plan long-term planning meant considering the location of design elements and considering future access)
The first half of the site involves the short and midterm, with the rear part to be developed over the next 20 years. The buildings for short and midterm were the Cultural, Education, and Recreational and Travellers Accommodation facilities. This would provide the School, Gymnasium, Swimming Pool, Cultural Centre and Travellers Accommodation Units. The long term plan is to include elderly health and accommodation facility within an Islamic Concept and environment. Planned in this way it was very crucial early on to decide the building sizes to determine the setup of bulk and location within the site, and to make careful allocation of future access for long term and allow for ample car parking. A simple but attractive 3D Model was created to demonstrate the final outcome and generated a good level of positive feedback.
A Site Plan was developed from the Master plan with help from Babbage Civil Engineers, Osborne Hay Town Planners and TPC Traffic Engineers. The Council/NZTA (New Zealand Transport Agency) have a 9 meter road reserve on the front yard and there is no water supply nor council drainage connections on site. These and many other site related design constraints have been considered whilst determining the proposal.
The Ministry of Education of New Zealand has been allocating considerable resources and energies towards appropriate school design guidelines. We have had input into such works before and appreciate that the teaching systems in schools have evolved over the years. 21st Century Learning (or “Future Learning”) is the key phrase within Ministry handbooks. Therefore whilst the school on this site is to be a private school at the outset, it seems both wise and very fruitful that the design is in consideration of MOE requirements so that the future acceptance of this school would come within their funding criteria. Therefore we engaged architects with an education specialisation in our design process. The form is simple with the overall school plan in a T-shape. This forms two courtyards – one for the senior school; the other for the junior. The building has two storeys, thus maximising the site. All the classrooms have one length exterior wall as set of doors that open into courtyard/corridor hence providing extension of space and facilitating multipurpose useage. In addition the school offers specialist technology spaces. The entrance of the school, bus drop off and road front are al planned such that children’s safety and visual security are paramount in daily activities.
Designing a Mosque or an Islamic Cultural Centre in New Zealand is a different exercise from an Islamic State. The Principal Architect on this Project wrote an extensive research report in 1993 on the “Representation of Minority Islamic Community in Majority Western Country”. (A copy of this report is available at School of Architecture, University of Auckland). The report identified one strong element that mosque architecture ought to acknowledge: that is the local environment, including its people. New Zealand is an island nation, largely agricultural, and timber producing. The concept of the Cultural Centre here is sprung from the idea of a “barn”; celebrating timber as a primary material; and is planned nautically as a “waka” – a Maori canoe. The 3D visualisation would help demonstrate this. New Zealand is full of rolling plains and the Cultural Centre has been designed as if it’s been carved out of a rolling plain.
The spaces in the Cultural Centre are in line with the intended use of the building – spiritual, education, inter faith and multipurpose. Car parking and landscaping has been oriented to enhance the form and function. The minaret design symbolises the trunk of a tree around which a spiral stairwell leads the user to a platform at the top. From here, the eye is led to a wider horizon and view to sight the new moon. The spiral stair is 3D reflection of the “Koru” a traditional Maori art symbolising growth. In New Zealand due to restrictions on sound, minarets have lost their original function of being a place of making the call to prayer. Instead, the minaret here will provide an experience of rising up to be thankful of the Almighty’s gift to us. From on high we see clear, the green and the built, all are Allah’s blessing on us.
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