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New Plymouth Airport

New Plymouth

The design integrates the cultural narrative of the local hapu, Puketapu, into the building design and landscape concepts to reflect the cultural heritage of the region.

The New Plymouth Airport is now a high quality and distinctive development which sits comfortably within the Taranaki environment. It can accommodate the future regional growth that will serve the needs of Taranaki. It will create an iconic architectural statement as a gateway into Taranaki and a destination for the people of New Plymouth. The design integrates the cultural narrative of the local hapu, Puketapu, into the building design and landscape concepts to reflect the cultural heritage of the region. It creates a distinctive and unique form that has evolved from and is embedded with a specific Taranaki sense of place.

New Plymouth Airport

The sites which the New Plymouth Airport currently stands on, are the ancient and endemic coastal estates of the Puketapu Hapu. For this project, Puketapu drew upon the Te Atiawa nascent lore of Tamarau and Rongo-ue-roa for the principal thematic for the building. This narrative connects Puketapu to their adjacent Hapu nations of Te Atiawa and also secures their whakapapa links to the other major iwi groupings throughout the country.

The legend goes that Tamarau, a celestial being, living in the heavens saw a beautiful maiden, Rongo-ue-roa, who lived down on earth, bathing in a river one day. Tamarau decided to descend down to earth to meet Rongo-ue-roa as he was overcome by her beauty.

Airport interior

White airport interior

They made love by the river and together they formed a new life, Awanuiarangi, the first descendant of the Te Atiawa iwi.

This narrative was the perfect fit for an airport terminal. A narrative which celebrates the meeting of two entities. One descending down from the sky to meet the other looking up to the heavens. Beca Architects used this narrative to inform the building form, the exterior feel and approach, the building interior volume and shape, and the building location and orientation on site.

Modern airport entryway

New Plymouth Airport refurbishment

The inspiration for the building form flowed from the concept of the earth stepping up to the heavens to represent Rongo-ue-roa, and the building appearing to also descend from the sky to represent Tamarau. The building took on two roof forms to achieve this. One roof form has a landscaped earth mound on the landside of the building leading up to the roof. This roof appears to extend out of the ground and come up to meet the second roof form. This second roof form descends from the airside of the building and meets with the first along the length of the building. This meeting point is the embodiment of the Te Atiawa iwi. This meeting point has been highlighted in the interior of the building by the 70m long artwork which steps in height to reflect the stepping in height of the roof form behind.

New Plymouth Airport exterior

New Plymouth Airport exterior 2

The simple repetitive roof form steps from the lower volumes adjacent to the concourse landside entrances up to the higher volumes in the cafe and public spaces, to emphasise the views, draw your sightline towards looking up to the sky where the planes come into land and the integration of the landscape into the interior.

This expressive structure is a key element in the passenger experience of the building, announcing the dynamic integrity of the building structure, which creates a distinctive, strong architectural statement as the gateway to Taranaki.

Airport bathroom - art

Airport bathroom - colourful art

The building siting and the curved facades of the public concourse also have great significance to the local hapu. The original foot track leading from the mountain to the mouth of the nearby Waiongana river, informs the alignment of the public concourse and therefore the overall building. As you enter the departures entrance in the south western corner of the building and walk down the concourse to where you exit the building through the departures exit in the north eastern corner of the building, you are walking the same path the Te Atiawa ancestors once walked many years before.

The concave curved facades create a gesture of a big hug, protection, warmth and of welcoming to the passengers and visitors as they approach the building. Maori tradition speaks of 'Mana'. A feeling of great pride and respect that one can only receive from others. They cannot generate mana themselves. In Maori tradition, you can receive such praise if you are seen as a great host, welcoming and generous. The sweeping curves endeavour to evoke the sense being such a host, and therefore seeks to gain mana and respect from those that pass through the building.

Modern airport - pick up zone

Airport food court

Colour plays an instrumental role to seamlessly embed the cultural narrative and artwork into this public project. Working with the iwi artist right from the outset of the project, meant we were able to see the benefit of integrating the artwork into the building form and function and having the narrative accentuated by the vibrant colours used. This naturally generated building elements which had a very important supporting role of creating an elegant backdrop to allow the artwork to draw your eye. Allowing the range of colours in the artwork to sing was the primary driver for the selection of the neutral Resene palette applied to the interior elements.

The two beings in the origin narrative, Tamarau and Rongo-ue-roa are each represented with their own colours. Tamarau, the celestial being, descending from above, is symbolised with a bright yellow colour, like the rays from the sun. Rongo-ue-roa, the terrestrial being from earth, is a scarlet pink. A colour is taken from the local flower that grew along the Taranaki coastline, originally drawing the Puketapu's ancestors to this land. Rongo-ue-roa is also symbolised by the green wall inside the terminal and the exterior mound behind it.

Tamarau's yellow colour and Rongo-ue-roa's scarlet colour are continuously used to represent them throughout the building and surrounding landscaping, used on a variety of different elements which are of varying scales to invite the passengers to investigate the building, and hopefully they find previously undiscovered elements every time they visit the new terminal. Examples of the various locations these colour themes are integrated are the building manifestations, the 70m long artwork, the baggage load make up safety floor markings, the wayfinding signage throughout, the plantroom epoxy floor coatings, the main toilet partition and separate toilet artwork.

The glazing manifestations are coloured according to which area they are located in. The public toilets, male and female each have their own feature glass work in their respective colours, a subtle nod to the gender of each of the main entities portrayed in the building.

The 70m long tukutuku artwork that runs the length of the terminal is an array of colours with many stories woven into its imagery. It begins with Rongo-ue-roa's scarlet pink adjacent to the green wall and extends all the way down towards the eastern end of the public concourse with Tamarau's vibrant yellow. The tallest wall in the building above the baggage claim area depicts yellows rays shining down and connects to the 70m artwork with a yellow manifestation along the glazing.

The colours of Tamarau and Rongo-ue-roa, and the multi-coloured 70m artwork bring the cultural narrative and story of Puketapu to the forefront of the design. It was important the neutral colours selected provided a suitable background for these elements to stand out. For this purpose, the soft whites of Resene Double Alabaster and Resene Black White were chosen to complement the other colours present in the terminal. The beauty of these cool whites, is that they allow the artwork to warm and soften the coolness of the whites. The two white paints also promote the light from the faceted curved glazing and clerestory windows to bounce around the terminal, further enhancing the natural brightness of the interior. This allowed the design team to reduce the amount of lighting required in the terminal – an energy saving feature that both the passengers and client benefit from, with a healthier and more efficient space. Other walls, the wind lobby barge and footings were finished in Resene Zylone Sheen in Resene Black.

Custom Resene paint colours were created for application on some of the exterior cladding, using Resene Sonyx 101 semi-gloss waterborne paint and Resene Lumbersider low sheen waterborne paint and all of the downpipes and rain heads to coordinate with the roof and steel work finished in Resene Uracryl.

This project began as a renovation study to investigate the extension of the existing terminal. Months of review, structural and geotechnical assessments revealed the existing building would need to be heavily modified with seismic and structural upgrades due to age, size, poor earthquake performance and potential liquefaction between the existing and any new structures. In parallel, the region saw significant passenger growth with 411,661 passengers in 2016, increased discussions about pending aviation security requirements, the addition of a second airline, Jetstar, and other stakeholder requirements. Therefore, it was concluded, after 50 years of use, the building had reached the end of its lifecycle and a new building would prove to be the most economically viable option.

This new approach paved the way for several options to be considered, including a concept that would include significant iwi involvement and cultural input which was supported by the council over a more functional build.

While a neutral palette for the building was consciously decided upfront to prevent the integrated artwork from needing to compete for attention, it was challenging at times to maintain throughout the process. This approach required a significant amount of effort and coordination with stakeholders, tenants, advertising and other disciplines. A comprehensive dialogue with each of the various stakeholders including Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Airspresso (café) and two further retail tenancies, involved taking them through the cultural narrative and design intent and numerous reviews to integrate their individual designs into the overall design for the terminal.

Tenant guidelines (retail and café) were created which outline the requirement for all materials and colours to enhance the overall terminal aesthetic and to avoid clashing with the overall terminal palette.

The chevron ceiling was difficult to keep subtle, clean and minimalistic. There were many building services required to be present in such a public building, all needing to be coordinated between the acoustic blades. The sizes, colours and positions of microphones, fire sprinklers, lights, occupancy sensors, smoke detectors, sensors, WAP and speakers were all thoroughly coordinated before installation. All services elements were either supplied in white or painted white to suit the Resene Double Alabaster painted ceiling and white acoustic blades. Previously designed fire exit signs hanging from the ceiling were re-designed to be located on the steel columns. Advertising consultants, when asked to propose advertising schemes, could not resist plastering the naked ceilings with garish advertising, especially with nothing else to compete for attention. Subsequently, the same approach was followed and the ceiling has successfully remained clear of any advertising elements.

The airport is located in an extremely exposed environment near the rugged west coast shoreline. The design of the terminal features exposed columns and boxed out trusses both on the interior and exterior.

Given the harsh environment, a range of Resene Engineered Coatings were selected for optimal protection. For the external mild steel exposed to the elements, a Resene Armourzinc, Resene Armourcote and Resene Uracryl 403 system was used, providing a balance between excellent durability with a fine architectural smooth finish.

For the exterior steel that was hidden from view, a durable Resene Armourzinc and Resene Armourcote system was used to ensure the steel protective coating would be up to the challenge of the harsh salt laden west coast environment. The fully concealed mild steel was coated with Resene Armourzinc 125 for durability.

For our interior steel that is exposed to view, the finish needed to look smooth and sophisticated. A Resene Armourzinc 125 base coat with the architectural finish of the Resene Uracryl 403 was used. All the visible steel work was painted white to contribute towards the reinforcement of the interior soft neutral palette.

Architectural specifier: Beca Architects
Building contractor: Clelands Construction
Client: Papa Rererangi i Puketapu Ltd
Painting contractor: Greg Brown
Other key contributor: Puketapu
Other key contributor: Tihei (Rangi Kipa)
Project management, civil, fire engineering, structure, landscape and building services: Beca
Photographer: Mark Scowen, Jo Wong
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2020

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