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Auckland Museum transformation wins NZ Institute of Architects awards

Published: 27 May 2021

The redevelopment of Auckland Museum’s South Atrium, Te Ao Mārama, has been recognised by the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) at their annual Auckland Architecture Awards. 

Auckland Museum and its architects, Jasmax with FJMT and DesignTribe, along with heritage architects Salmond Reed, won the Public Architecture Award and the Heritage Award. The Museum’s new bistro and café, Tuitui was also awarded in the Hospitality category.

The Te Ao Mārama South Atrium project for Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira (AWMM) impressed the judges who described it as marking the arrival of an inclusive and collaborative approach to the storytelling of Tāmaki Makaurau.

“The new South Atrium renovation brings balance to the original European architecture and embeds mana whenua and Pacific narratives into the museum’s civic spaces. Te Ao Mārama sets a new precedent and lays down a challenge to all who visit it to see their museum, and their heritage, afresh.”

Local Architecture Awards honour the best new architecture in each of the NZIA's eight regional branches. Winners at the Local Architecture Awards level may be considered for further honours at a national level.

“The design establishes dialogue between New Zealand’s history and the present day. It is respectful of the building’s heritage, while integrating bicultural concepts that deepen visitors’ engagement with the stories the museum tells, the collections, and the building. Te Ao Mārama reinforces the relevance of the Museum to its many diverse audiences, cementing its position as a cultural leader and major tourist attraction” says Project Architect, Marianne Riley from the architectural joint venture of Jasmax with FJMT and design Tribe.

This contemporary renewal of the existing building deepens the relationship between the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and its unique place in Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau, delivering bicultural spaces and culturally enriching the visitor experience.

Three artworks were commissioned for the reopening, to honour the connections between mana whenua and Pasifika and in doing so uplift the mana of Te Ao Mārama. Together, the architecture and artwork pay tribute to the museum’s heritage and express in contemporary language new concepts, form, and materiality to connect visitors to the building, the museum collections and its context in Tāmaki Makaurau, and beyond to Aotearoa and the South Pacific.

Te Tatau Kaitiaki, the entry gateway by Graham Tipene, depicting two female ancestors is there to signal the hau or breath that circulated when the sky and earth were thrust apart by Tāne Mahuta to provide the primordial opening of Te Ao Mārama. The vitality of earthly pleasures and connections are celebrated by Filipe Tohi’s abstracted pair of crimson birds or Manulua clinging to the legs of the tanoa. The final artwork – Chris Bailey’s two ritual cleansing gourds, Hine-pū-te-hue and Rongomātāne, one at each side of the entry – acknowledges that museums are places where the spirits of ancestors reside.

The Museum’s new bistro and cafe, Tuitui which is situated within Te Ao Mārama and designed by Jack McKinney Architects won the Hospitality category. It was acclaimed by the judging panel for “a thoughtful, moody interior, with a warmth and intimacy that fits seamlessly into the existing museum building”.

“We are delighted and honoured to have received these prestigious awards which recognise the two-year journey we have undertaken to transform this part of our heritage building for current and future visitors,” says Dr David Gaimster, Chief Executive of Auckland War Memorial Museum.

“Te Ao Mārama marks a milestone for Auckland Museum in creating a precinct dedicated to cultural welcome, orientation and tikanga. It is a uniquely Auckland design and enables us to extend the manaakitanga this Museum is known for,” he explains.

Dr Gaimster acknowledged that a project of the size and scale of the Te Ao Mārama South Atrium precinct required an enormous commitment by hundreds of staff, suppliers, community leaders and funders to bring it to fruition.

“We accept this award on behalf of everyone who has taken the design vision and turned it into a reality,” he said. This includes members of mana whenua and Pacific community leaders, who have advised on everything, from fundamental design principles at the project’s inception through to the final delivery of artworks.

“Together they have delivered a transformation programme of multiple projects, despite the disruption and the inevitable delays caused by COVID. This is a great achievement for any organisation and a huge success for Auckland ratepayers who enable our work” he concluded.

The 2020 project was supported by a number of donors from individuals to trusts, whose generosity ensures that Auckland Museum can meet the demands of visitors today and into the future.

More than 300,000 visitors have experienced the Te Ao Mārama South Atrium hospitality precinct since it opened to the public on 5 December 2020.


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