WHAREWAKA

PROJECT TYPE: COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS

USE: VARIOUS

LOCATION: WELLINGTON WATERFRONT

CLIENT: TE WHAREWAKA O PONEKE TRUST

ARCHITECTS: ARCHITECTURE +

PROJECT TIMEFRAME: 2010-2011

AWARDS: WELLINGTON CIVIC TRUST AWARD, PROPERTY COUNCIL MERIT AWARD, NZIA AWARD

Named one of New Zealand’s 20 best new buildings in the 2012 Architecture Awards, the Wharewaka, or canoe house, symbolises the waka form. It restores a Maori presence to the Wellington waterfront that stretches back to the 1880s when Te Aro Pa, one of Wellington’s largest Maori communities, occupied the site at the edge of the harbour.

It is a purpose-built function centre with a café, work spaces and function rooms. Two ceremonial waka taua on permanent display on the lower ground floor can be launched directly into the harbour. The building also houses six-person waka ama or outrigger canoes.

A distinctive aspect is the korowai or cloak, an outer steel layer that covers the body of the building and drapes down its sides. The Wharewaka's piles are set deep into reclaimed land and it has serrated columns that support an angular, folded-plate roof. Because of the roof’s irregular shape, the concrete columns vary in height. When they were poured, five steel pieces were inserted in the top of each one so they could be bolted onto the steel roof.

It was exacting work, assisted by then new technology called CNC (computer numerical controlled) modelling. A computer worked out the joints, cutting angles, most economic use of material and how it should fit together.

Opened on Waitangi Day 2011, the Wharewaka is a striking addition to an arc of waterfront buildings that LT McGuinness has worked on, from the adjacent Boatshed,  Free Ambulance Building, NZX Centre and Mac's Brewery Bar to the John Chambers Building, One Market Lane and Clyde Quay Wharf Apartments.