The Rock – Preview

The Rock – Preview

This week the Wellington Airport took the bold step of inviting a number of architects and property people to have a preview of The Rock, prior to its official opening next week. The preview was not only the first chance for us to look around the building but, as the hoardings had only just been taken down the day before, was a first viewing for much of the project team.

The subject of much media debate, the external appearance of The Rock has been unfolding for some time. As the airport further develops its plans, the view on arrival will make this part of the building, more and more obvious, acting as a billboard of the company’s architectural intent to make this airport stand out from the normal conservative architecture of airports around the world.

Looking like a gigantic rust nodule on a piece of painted steel, this addition sure stands out in full contrast to the Ministry of Works terminal behind. Even SPA’s stated antecedent of Wellington’s rocks is clearer in reality than in computer render, with the naturally weathering copper and eroded, layered form very much echoing the geological formations at Red Rocks.

The great delight for me, however, was not the outside but the interior. With the huge push for retail space in airport terminals, it is a real treat to find a space for passengers that allows respite from the bright lights and colours of the commercial backdrop. In more usual terminals, waiting space tends to have all the comfort of sitting in a busy corridor. Here, we are given a generous, restful auditorium of warm natural finishes and organic softness, just perfect for those of us visiting in a sleep deprived state. The space is communal and active and is designed to work in a soft way with all the senses, thanks to the addition of a generous café counter wafting out the smell of freshly ground coffee which has become synonymous with arrival to the domestic terminal.

Nudging such an organic shape against the formalist architecture of the existing terminal would have been a real challenge. Again, a design challenge has been converted into a feature with the older structure laid bare and contrasted against the new, pristine form and gently separated using natural light filtering through a glazed gap between the building.

Probably most memorable from a first look, was the high level of detailing which successfully transforms an idea grown from a foam model in to an architectural delight. This is testimony to a collaborative approach of the two architectural teams (SPA and WAM) and the work of Mainzeal and their craftsmen crew. The triangular timber panels floating on a black ground that form the interior and the tiling work of the inner ‘ramped rock’, showing that fine work can be achieved in this commercial world.



2 responses to “The Rock – Preview”

  1. this is a brave work that deserves to be celebrated for helping to open new zealand architecture into the risky terrain of sculptural expressionism…. for me is also shows on a major public building what can be possible if you dare to take risks… and this could help open a new new zealand spirit of risk taking, in architecture, but also in other fields, including business…. our nation needs to take this seriously and to bravely explore this new spirit… to say ‘why not?’ instead of knocking, or saying ‘why?’ …. we need to start to believe in our creative and innovative potentials and really push boundaries.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I get so annoyed whenever I see ads for things that are “European Designed” or “Italian Styled”. What the hell is wrong with NZ designed and styles? Nothing. It’s a complex, we’re remote, removed, at the end of the world, poor second cousins. Bunkum I say!
    Often we have a fresh and unique perspective on design precisely because we are removed from the rest of the world and surrounded by a unique environment with many subtle and perhaps still under appreciated influences.

    We need to teach our kids to be proud of who we are and what we have accomplish so that they may grow in that spirit and push the boundaries of the realm of possibility.


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