Down to Earth

2022, AD1

Over the past centuries, the corner of Shortland and High street has borne witness to four iterations of building – each larger and less connected to the earth than the previous. Our feet are separated from the ground of the city by a plane of concrete and steel: our perception of time is warped by the static nature of our buildings. This project seeks to reconnect people and the earth in the city. The building operates at three time scales: the transient, the long-term, and the permanent. Three concrete cores house an array of seed vaults, linked by the basement level. They are designed to withstand the tests of time and climate – safeguarding our ecology – with a lifespan of several hundred years. Around these sit three poured earth boxes, carved and crafted to create gallery and garden spaces. They are designed to weather and deteriorate, with a shorter lifespan than the cores – ultimately decaying back to the ground, leaving only the seed vaults standing. Transient timber and fabric structures are plugged into the earthen volumes to serve and adapt to the immediate needs of the building, allowing the scheme to achieve and sustain relevance throughout time.