“Working with high grade close up photography of the plumage they reviewed colours using Resene’s Colour Palette Generator”
Tourism Waitaki operates North Otago’s most successful tourism attraction, the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, which attracts over 80,000 visitors a year.
Due to space constraints and the need to offer visitors more of an experience during the day time, when penguins are at sea, a centre development was proposed to include a daytime tour facility that would complement the day and night time viewing of the little blues.
Design Federation were engaged initially to come up with a new spatial layout and to direct the interior design of the project. A new reception area and retail space were proposed which included the entry to the new day tour experience. Construction was undertaken to add a new entrance to the north of the building while still operating the business. While this was being undertaken Design Federation developed a commercial design plan and colour palette to enhance the facility.
A ‘nest box’ entrance was created where visitors get a sense of walking into the penguin’s world. Visitors enter a darkened tunnel to the surround sound of penguin calls and lightboxes before moving into a theatre room. An introductory video gives visitors an overview of the colony before walking into display areas including interactive lightboxes, information panels, research overviews, statistics and information.
One of the major developments was to create a penguin underpass by the harbour to assist penguins cross the road at night. The activity room now includes a faux penguin underpass tunnel, finished in Resene Half Grey Chateau (silver stone grey), which leads children into a separate activity zone.
Two aspects dictated the colour selection – the plumage of the penguins and the ocean where the birds spend the majority of their lives. While it is obvious to be utilising blues it was only when the plumage colours were studied that it was realised how broad a palette lay within their feathers. Working with high grade close up photography of the plumage they reviewed colours using Resene’s Colour Palette Generator online tool, looking across all collections and then reviewing more contemporary colours in The Range fashion fandeck. This gave a broad range of over 40 colours from which to review and determine which were going to work best in this multipurpose facility.
Reviewing the ocean colour palette was more problematic as while there is photography of Australasian waterways the choices needed to reflect the North Otago coastline. They also required a specific photograph related to the penguin colony underwater for one of the displays.
A diving photographer was sourced and went into the coastline at the penguin colony and shot some stills of the underwater environment. From there another palette of colours were derived as options. Colour provides the key element to the displays and visitor experience inside. Through working with a coordinated and bold palette, different environments could be created.
Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen in Resene Elephant (deep green blue) and Resene Titania (grey off-white) in the reception area make a bold and professional impact on entry and bring a sense of the deep sea to the entrance. The tunnel experience called for a near black finish as this area is all about large lightboxes and strong audio backdrop of penguin calls. True to the central palette of the project instead of using black, they chose the deepest navy Resene Dark Side (midnight blue). Display walls were painted in Resene Hope (muted aquamarine), Resene Nauti (chalky pastel blue) and Resene Coast (stark blue) to bring a playful, bold backdrop to exhibition spaces. Working in unison with display panels, the colours were designed to complement not compete.
The activity area uses a lighter palette of Resene Escape (pale blue), Resene Sea Crest (watery cerulean blue) and Resene Quarter Titania (ashen off-white), with penguins swimming along the ceiling, with activity area walls in Resene Coast to act as a solid backdrop to bookcases and puzzle displays. A feature wall of Resene Magnetic Magic and Resene Sea Crest means that objects can be easily moved around using high quality magnets to create an ever changing display.
The custom design wave table houses key environmental elements that the penguins interact with. This was painted in Resene Coast with drawers in alternative colours of Resene Nauti and Resene Escape. A built in desk provides a space for people of all ages to create and draw, and is painted in Resene Lustacryl in Resene Quarter Titania to ensure longevity.
Activities for all ages give visitors a fully diverse experience into the life of the penguin before they enter the outdoor experience.
The range of blues and greens throughout the space brings attention back to the shoreline and continually reminds visitors they are within the blue penguin colony. Painting display areas in bold colours, as opposed to white, has shown that colour can be both the backdrop and front runner in an exhibition space. The palette continues into the staff room finished in Resene Half Kumutoto (soft coastal blue) and the research office in Resene Tea (river boulder beige).
The development had to take place while operating the centre – the only day in the year the penguin colony is closed is Christmas Day so the development was staged in order to keep the visitor experience to a high level while development was being completed.
This project won the Resene Total Colour Commercial Interior Public + Retail Colour Maestro award. The judges said “delightfully authentic, this project is wrapped top to toe in penguin friendly hues. The palette is inspired by the sea, captured through extensive underwater exploration and photography, and penguin plumage. The palette truly reflects the colours penguins would see daily in their natural habitat and brings this above sea level for visitors to enjoy.“
Architectural specifier: John McKenzie
Building contractor: DeGeest Construction
Client: Tourism Waitaki
Colour selection: Annabel Berry, Design Federation
Painting contractor: A1 Decorators, Darryn Stewart Painting and Decorating
Penguin Colony Scientist and Key Collaborator: Philippa Agnew
Photographer: Rachel Wybrow Photography
Stylist: Meghan Nockels, Design Federation