CRL station designs wow international judges

Last Updated : 18 Dec 2019
Iwi narratives at the heart of CRL stations wow international judges
Concept design of how the Mercury Lane entrance to the Karangahape City Rail Link underground station might look

Striking and unique Māori-based designs being developed for Auckland’s City Rail Link stations have been celebrated in Amsterdam on the world’s biggest architecture stage.  

The key concept designs for the Aotea and Karangahape underground stations and the re-designed Mt Eden station are based on the traditional narratives of Tāmaki Makaurau iwi.

The CRL entry was shortlisted in the Future Infrastructure category of the 2019 World Architecture Festival held in the Netherlands this month.

The project, designed by two companies Jasmax and Grimshaw in partnership with mana whenua, had already won the World Architecture Festival WAFX cultural identity award earlier in the year.

In winning the WAFX award, judges acknowledged the station designs as “some of the world’s most forward-looking architectural concepts”.

Chris Jack from Jasmax says: “Using a truly culturally integrated design framework, the City Rail Link station designs reflect Auckland’s unique cultural and geographical identity. Inspired by the historic landforms and flora characteristic to each station site and specific narratives gifted by mana whenua, the architecture and integrated artwork reflect a Māori worldview that people and the land are one.”

Iwi narratives at the heart of CRL stations wow international judges (2)
Chris Jack (Jasmax), Elisapeta Heta (Jasmax) and Cameron Ritter (Link Alliance) in Amsterdam to receive the WAFX Category “Cultural Identity” award

City Rail Link Ltd’s Chief Executive Dr Sean Sweeney congratulated CRL’s Mana Whenua Forum and the project’s architects for impressing international judges with distinctive designs unique to New Zealand.

“New Zealand’s largest transport infrastructure project is now firmly on the world stage with designs that demonstrate there is a whole lot more to CRL than concrete and steel,” Dr Sweeney says.

Auckland Council public art manager Emily Trent says it was recognised early that this was a “once in a generation opportunity” to integrate the kaupapa, materiality and language of mana whenua into both the art and the architecture of Auckland’s future network of underground stations.

She says Auckland Council’s public art team started work on this in 2016, when they commissioned a creative studio to work on the design of the station thresholds led by design agency Alt Group.

Since then the three future stations have been designed by Jasmax with Grimshaw, relying on a close working relationship with mana whenua, City Rail Link’s design team and Auckland Council.

Iwi narratives at the heart of CRL stations wow international judges (1)
Concept design for the interior threshold at Aotea City Rail Link underground station

Eight iwi from the Auckland region have been involved in the design: Te Ākitai Waiohua, Te Kawerau ā Maki, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Paoa, Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Tamaoho Trust, Ngāti Te Ata and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

Hero Potini – Kaitiaki for Ngāti Tamaoho – gives his perspective: “The stations share those deeper stories that you don't get anywhere else in the country, let alone the world. We as mana whenua, right from the get-go, came together, each tribe with their own mana, to express their kaitiaki taonga individually.”

“Together we knew what the kaupapa was and that we could reflect ourselves, as mana whenua, within the project. The work we’ve all done here, together, is an example of an aspiring Tiriti partnership, which is being internationally acknowledged,” he says.

Iconic public art is a central part of the integrated design of the stations. In an early conceptual video of Aotea Station, carved rods are seen forming an undulating stream across an immense ceiling; becoming a constellation of stars at night.

In what will be New Zealand’s largest-ever public art opportunity, Auckland Council together with City Rail Link are preparing to engage top artists to create work which enhances the visitor experience and deepens the station narratives.

Emily Trent says the team’s task is to deliver on Auckland Council’s public art objectives: to bring art that is unique and distinctive and responds to place. 

She says people will experience art across the new City Rail Link in two important ways: “Extraordinary works of public art delivering the iwi narratives will bring coherence across the stations especially at the thresholds; the entries and exits. This is visually impressive while being symbolic as it marks the meeting point of the stations with the whenua (land). There will also be stand-alone works of art within the stations which will create ‘wow’ moments for the city,” she says.

Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff says: “The City Rail Link is New Zealand’s largest infrastructure project and will transform Auckland’s transport network.

"In addition to its huge benefits to transport across the region, the stations themselves provide a unique opportunity to showcase and reflect our identity as Aucklanders, as well as our culture, our history and our landscape.

"It’s a chance to celebrate Auckland as a vibrant and interesting world-class city in what will be the largest public art project in New Zealand and a powerful expression of our culture.”

City Rail Link Ltd is building 3.45-kilometre-long twin rail tunnels below central Auckland to connect the existing Mt Eden and Britomart stations.

“When it opens in 2024, the CRL will give Aucklanders a world-class rail service, including its striking stations, that an international city like ours needs,” says Dr Sweeney. 

At an Open Day in November organised by CRL Ltd, thousands of Aucklanders previewed the first stage of the tunnels.

Back to News