The Buddhist Community had had a presence in Christchurch for some time and sought a purpose-built Community Centre on a prominent Riccarton Road site. The Community was particularly keen on prominence as the centre was intended not only for their devotees, but also for the wider Christchurch community.
The intention was to recreate Buddhist origin in a contemporary manner with a full height and length of the Riccarton Road frontage.
The façade of thickened sandstone, imported from northern India, has bold openings for the entrance and tea house window, as well as four niches, each with a full-sized bronze Buddha statues. This design was modelled on the Dunhuang caves, a series of over 400 ancient Buddhist temples cut into a rock face near the Taklamakan Desert in north-west China. Behind this façade the three wings of the community centre are arranged to form a courtyard opening out to the north.
The buildings were constrained by an eight metre height limit. To contain costs and provide a contrast with the stone wall, the three wings behind the façade were constructed of plain precast concrete. The west wing contains the Buddhist offices, an art gallery and museum, public toilets, and a meditation hall and shrine above. The south wing contains the entrance and tea house, with classrooms and a library above. While the east wing contains a kitchen and dining hall, with accommodation above.
The centrepiece of the meditation hall is an impressive 750kg jade Buddha statue. Walls are illuminated with thousands of LED GRP Buddha panels and fibre optic cables. The flooring is composed of basalt tiles from China, complemented with similar coloured carpet tiles. While the ceilings of the main spaces are timber battens over acoustic backing, peeled back along some edges to express the fair-faced in situ concrete structure and the boarded patterned soffits.
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