Total Colour Award winners

change on a shoestring


Once upon a time, a library manager learnt that routine maintenance was being undertaken on the public areas of Auckland Central Library.

Service desk

This included like-for-like replacement of the carpet and requiring all the collection, furniture and shelving to be moved.

Athfield Architects were asked: “We are seeking inspiration and fresh thinking on a shoestring!” – could it all be put back in a different arrangement to address the functional problems, improve visitor experience and support the library staff’s delivery of Auckland Libraries 21st Century Service Model? Athfield Architects undertook a spatial review of the building and through stakeholder consultation, site analysis and benchmarking against (inter)national best practice – ‘Big Picture’ principles were conceived for the whole building.

Auckland central library

By this time the budget had shrunk so the available tools consisted of the existing furniture, collection, some timber, paint, vinyl graphics and the existing carpet pattern. The small adaptation project builds from and amplifies the strengths of the existing library and complements its qualities with new insertions – spread as far and as wide over the three floors as possible:

Newspaper room

Childrens makerspace



The selection of Resene colours for Auckland Central Library were made in response to the existing colours and finishes of the building, the most vocal component was the carpet. The carpet is an abstracted version of a stick navigation map used by Lapita sailors to navigate the Pacific. It hosts a never-ending array of golden sticks, teal and sea green triangles, with hints of red bobbles representing shells. We drew from these colours, as had the previous architects who had refurbished the space in the mid-90s.

These ratios of colours were used throughout the building. In a sparing nature, reds were dedicated to points of access; Resene Guardsman Red in service areas and Resene Hot Chile for walls to the main lift core. Resene Nite Life was used for the public bathrooms with a wavy vinyl super-graphic over. Second floor ancillary walls were painted in Resene Fuscous Grey.

Mural of people

Mural of people



The chief concern was to make the spaces within the library much brighter and lighter, as the floor plate of the library is deep. Resene Alabaster was used throughout the building on all the columns. Its impact is most significant in the central atrium space, where with new up and downlighting, now feels like a space that could be open from above.

The use of Resene Merino on walls on the second floor in the Heritage collection sought to be a little warmer than the white. Resene Double Concrete with a wavy newsprint vinyl graphic over, hems the newspaper and magazine reading space. Resene Digital Green and Resene Blackboard Paint in black were added as complementary functional wall finishes to the activities the makerspace regularly hosts.

The project was driven by the client’s aspirations to direct the energy of routine maintenance in ways that could add greater benefits and to adapt an existing interior to make it ‘fit for purpose’ again and extend the life of its operation and use. Shelving, seating, tables and PCs were re-positioned and reused.

Architectural specifier: Athfield Architects Limited
Building contractor: Cassidy Construction
Client: Auckland Libraries
Photographer: David St George
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2019

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