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Wellington airport’s rocky road to global recognition

Wellington airport’s bumpy addition may have received an equally bumpy welcome when it was first unveiled to the public last year, but the new international terminal, affectionately dubbed ‘The Rock’, continues to earn its keep, making the shortlist of the 2011 Inside World Festival of Interiors. It’s the only Kiwi entry to make the shortlist, which features 44 entries from as far as Malta and as close as Australia. 

The $60 million project was created by Studio Pacific Architecture, working in collaboration with Warren and Mahoney.

Wellington Airport’s brief for the terminal, as stated on the Studio Pacific Architecture website, was for: “...functionality, planning efficiency, economy in building materials and construction, optimisation of the available pocket building site (heavily constrained by aircraft maneuverability and choreography), and a double ambition of creating a memorable visitor experience through an ‘edgy’ aesthetic”. 

And it is that very notion on “memorable” that instigated the unusual outcome. 

“When the brief is to create a memorable experience, it’s a pre-requisite that you’re going to produce something that challenges people. It goes with the territory,” Studio Pacific architect Nick Barratt-Boyes told Design Daily in an interview last year (read story below), shortly after the terminal was opened.

In what is not generally a common theme, Barratt-Boyes says the client kept pushing them to go further and push the boundaries. 

“To be honest, you only get interesting architecture when there’s a client who’s got courage and conviction. Without that, you’re struggling,” he said.

The inside features macrocarpa timber panelling, which Barratt-Boyes said creates a warm and earthy interior that creates cavernous spaces. Coloured fragments of glass in the roof fissure let in a warm, natural light by day and backlighting at night creates a glow, which will be seen from the air.