AgResearch is a Government-owned Crown Research Institute (CRI) tasked with delivering leading agricultural science and innovation to benefit the wider Aotearoa economy. The organisation’s new headquarters and research centre consolidates a research/laboratory building and a workplace building on a new site to form part of the agricultural science precinct in Lincoln. This facility is located within the takiwā of Te Taumutu Rūnanga.
Located adjacent to Lincoln University, the project seeks to showcase AgResearch’s leading science abilities and catalyse agricultural innovation through encouraging and enhancing collaboration with industry partners and research providers, both within the Lincoln district and the wider Canterbury region.
The facility is arranged with the main functional components of workplace and laboratory in two building wings adjacent to one another. These are connected via circulation links across a central courtyard, bringing light and natural ventilation into the heart of the headquarters and enhancing visibility and connectivity between the functions. This strategy allows for a visual and functional relationship between the two while also enabling the building forms to be treated independently and respond to their specialist requirements.
Consequently, each building has its own distinct identity. The more solid laboratory building is grounded by a rigid precast structure which meets the strict laboratory vibration requirements and integrates expressed local aggregates and terracotta colouring to tie in with the wider campus setting and environment. In contrast, the workplace building touches the ground more lightly with its expressed timber structure conveying the different functions of these spaces.
Environmentally sustainable design principles were a key focus from the outset of the design process. Driven by a client brief to reduce the buildings’ carbon footprint and use locally sourced materials where possible, the workplace building was developed with a timber structure, reducing embodied energy considerably in relation to a comparable steel and concrete structure. In addition, passive design features such as the building’s projecting eaves and external sun shading which limit solar gain is paired with a mixed-mode natural ventilation design to target operational energy efficiency over the building’s life.
A generous timber canopy shelters and welcomes staff and visitors into the new workplace building, reflecting the organisation’s sustainability ethos. The timber structure is expressed throughout the building with a regular grid of LVL columns and beams, paired with prefabricated timber cassette floor systems and Glulam roof members providing a rhythm and expression of natural materials throughout.
The masterplanning approach for AgResearch has been to establish buildings within a landscape that is unique to place and includes sustainable land management and care for the environment. The site is located on the historic margins of the dry plains landscape of Kā Pākihi-Whakatekateka-a-Waitaha (the Canterbury Plains) and the wet margins of Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere). This area, once an ecologically rich landscape and a source of food and resources for Ngāi Tahu Whānui, faces significant water quality issues caused by its modification to a farmed landscape. Linking this with AgResearch’s focus on land-based research and development was a critical design driver for the development of the site.
He Puna Karikari (2016), the cultural narrative provided by mana whenua, Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki ki Taumutu is a key driver for the integration of mana whenua values, traditions and aspirations within the design and operations of the AgResearch facility. Careful and controlled land and water management; sustainable design; and consideration and caring for others are some of the undercurrents of this narrative that are highly relevant to contemporary agricultural research. In keeping with this, the AgResearch facility pays homage to the work of Rākaihautū with his kō, Tūwhakaroria, enabling innovative, productive land-based solutions that are ecologically and socially sound and sustainable. Ngāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu artist, Piri Cowie, has developed art and design elements to complement and enrich the spatial experience of this facility. Works created by Ngāi Tahu artists Reihana Parata and Morehu Flutey-Henare and Ngāti Porou artist Riki Manuel will also feature in the supporting landscape. Collectively these works bring a deep sense of meaning and connectedness that emanates from a mana whenua knowledge base.