The Ernest Rutherford Science Building at University of Canterbury

The Ernest Rutherford Building brings together many science disciplines that were previously housed in different buildings, and makes up the first stage of the Rutherford Regional Science and Innovation Centre (RRSIC). Shaped like an X-chromosome, the building is a state of the art, inspiring home for science.


Project Details

Client University of Canterbury
Sector Health & Science, Tertiary Education
Location Ōtautahi Christchurch
Discipline Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design
Status Completed 2019

A new heart to the University of Canterbury

The showcase Rutherford Regional Science and Innovation Centre (RRSIC) opened in July 2018. The five storey, 20,500 sqm building has brought a new heart and culturally defined identity to the centre of the University.

Shaped like an ‘X-chromosome’, the facility is unique in Australasia for combining six different science disciplines under one roof. The rebuild offered an opportunity for the university to create a world-class teaching and research facility, which encourages and fosters collaboration creating a future-ready building for delivering tomorrow’s science.

Layers of meaning unique to mana whenua

The building’s form reflects the University’s vision to design a building embedded in layers of meaning unique to its place. Through consultation with local Iwi Ngāi Tahu, Jasmax ensured that a long view of Canterbury history was taken, making the building a symbol of the past as well as a vision for the region’s future.

Central to the building are the concepts Kia Atawhai ki ti iwi / Care for the people, Te Ara a Tawhaki / The Pathway of Knowledge and Mahinga Kai / Care for the Land. The vertical emphasis in the atrium space is a metaphor for perseverance and striving for excellence in academia. Encouraging movement up through the levels of the building, the atrium acts as a wayfinder, reflective of Maori God Tawhaki’s accent of the levels of learning.


“I think my favourite thing about the new building is that we interact with other science disciplines a lot more than we did previously. I see more people, meet more people.”

Claire, PHD student in Geological Sciences

Science on Display

In the Ernest Rutherford Building, teaching and research pathways are clearly visible in the side-by-side arrangement of teaching, Masters and PhD research activities. Laboratory work is evident throughout the building, placing research activity on display to building users and visitors.

This transparency is innovative and encourages questions to be asked and answers to be found in ways they otherwise couldn’t have been in traditional ‘siloed’ departments.

“This bold, confident building illustrates a social respect for learning and a celebration of education. The composition of contemporary forms, warm natural textures and sparing but striking bursts of colour translates the university’s vision for future tertiary education into a physical form.”

Jury Citation, NZIA Canterbury Architecture Awards



2019 NZIA Local Awards – Education
2019 NZIA Local Awards - Interior Architecture
2019 Best Awards – Built Environment - Bronze
2019 Best Awards - Public and Institutional Spaces - Bronze