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Wellington Airport makes room on mantelpiece with global architecture win

Wellington Airport makes room on mantelpiece with global architecture win

It’s probably safe to say Wellington Airport’s new international terminal, dubbed 'The Rock', has now picked up enough awards to give the big finger to its critics. Having in the past being likened to a pair of giant pumpkins and even a piece of anatomy belonging to the nether regions, the airport keeps finding awards favour, most recently winning the Transport category at the inaugural Inside awards in Barcelona, part of the prestigious World Architecture Festival. 

Not a bad effort, especially considering it was the only Kiwi entry to make the shortlist of 44, competing against entries from as far as Malta and as close as Australia. 

The World Festival of Interiors judges were impressed by the project for its celebration of “local heritage through symbolic design that didn't adhere to the stereotype of a typical transport building”. 

The $60 million project was created by Studio Pacific Architecture, working in collaboration with Warren and Mahoney. A radical departure from the imagery of lightness and flight common to airports worldwide, the design was inspired by Wellington’s craggy sea-battered coast, evoking the anchoring qualities of the land. 

Last week the terminal picked up a local award in the Commercial Architecture category at the NZIA Wellington Architecture Awards. Judges described it as “different, without a doubt”. 

“In its defiance of analogies about the freedom and levity of flight, the building's external language is certainly unusual. Cavernous, introverted, and mostly slick interiors articulate a singular response to geometrical and technical challenges. A collegial project team, knitted together seamlessly from two prominent practices, has produced a distinctive Wellington gateway.” 

Speaking to Design Daily last year shortly after the terminal’s opening, Studio Pacific Architecture’s Nick Barratt-Boyes said that although architecture has traditionally been very territorial, it is now more common for architectural practices to collaborate. He says the rigour of having both Studio Pacific Architecture and Warren and Mahoney work on the project brought intensity to the process.  

“You’ve got two pretty determined design practices and that provides good tension because you have to debate things and you don’t always see eye to eye. But I think we’ve worked together really well on this project. It’s a good outcome, and that’s the most important thing.”