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Central Christchurch – An opportunity created

The Hare Krishna temple like many buildings in the Christchurch City centre sustained major damage due to the multiple earthquakes and aftershocks. While this has been a loss to the community of devotees it has provided an unexpected opening for a purpose made Hare Krishna visitors centre to replace the over 150 year old converted house.

As with any design, there were fundamental design tenets that needed to be expressed. The primary one was the adoption of Vastu principles (design tenets that pre-date Feng Shui and from which Feng Shui was derived) in respect to the placement and form of building elements. These included the entry facing east (for the ready inflow of prosperity), main building roof elements draining to the east and to promote the interior sanctity, locating the principle toilet amenities outside the main building.

Guidance in respect to Vastu was provided by the temple president and an international Vastu expert from India who visited Christchurch to inspect the early concept plans.

Attention to the proportion of spaces was also necessary e.g. the temple room is a specific size and proportion relative to the total site area.

The visitors centre contains a number of new amenities that sets it apart from the original building. The provision of an indoor/outdoor café supported by a full commercial kitchen is probably the most notable. It is envisaged that the cafe will attract many visitors as the devotees are famous for their vegetarian food.

In respect to the exterior treatment, pre-finished panels made from reconstituted timber are mostly used. Sourced from Europe, they have been selected for their varied color range along with resistance to UV, graffiti, scratching and other qualities that provide for low maintenance. The choice of saffron for one of the panel colors relates to the color of the clothing worn by the temple “priests”. The panels are generally fixed over concrete tilt panels which are also used elsewhere behind a plastered finish.

The opportunity to be involved with this project is an interesting and unique experience. It also exemplifies the opportunities that lie ahead for Christchurch to create exciting new buildings as the basis for a new architectural heritage.

Design features

  • Employs principles of Vastu
  • Provision of low maintenance pre-finished panels as an exterior cladding
  • Use of concrete for thermal mass
  • Provision for a floral landscape consistent with the Vedic traditions of the Hare Krishna philosophy.