Text description provided by the architects. Our inspiration for this project was drawn directly from the fusion of natural landscape, urban form and heritage of cultural exchange and flow that characterise this beautiful site at the edge of the campus, overlooking Auckland Harbour and the Auckland Domain. Prior to modern development this landscaped valley used to be known for the stream, Waipapa that flowed directly into the Harbour, and it was near this stream that early European settlers traded with the Ngati Whatua tribes. An equal inspiration was the ambition of the University to create a new centre for learning, innovation, a place of knowledge exchange and collaboration for future leaders.
We developed architectural forms that open through a series of organic flowing ribbons in a gesture of invitation, outreach and optimism, gathering the energy of the site into a major new public square. These layered glass and stainless steel planes are carefully composed to orientate and join the forms and internal volumes of the new building to significant landscape elements. The central atrium and internal gathering space is directed out between the two largest ribbons to connect with the natural landscape of the Auckland Domain, the northern figural ‘head’ is turned to look directly towards the Harbour and Rangitoto Island while terminating the axial vista of Wynyard Street.
These organic and flowing forms are suspended above a solid podium that anchors the building and reinterprets the natural topography of the immediate sloping site. This counterbalancing podium form is joined spatially with the suspended ribbons at the atrium heart of the new complex, interconnecting the shared teaching spaces with the workplace, learning and social spaces of the Business School.
The fluid and open architectural expression provides a strong contemporary counterpoint to the traditional insular European buildings that characterized the beginnings of the University. A powerful new symbol of research and knowledge, it provides an appropriate international projection for the School that values excellence, innovation, progress, and openness, welcoming and embracing the Auckland community.
The ribbon forms are created through layers of stainless steel and glass, incorporating a suspended external, glazed shade-panel of titanium inter-layers. This layered façade system ventilates, shades and mediates glare while orientating the internal workplaces to light and views of the Harbour and landscape.
Within the solid podium are the principal teaching spaces and computer labs, with the main publicly accessible lecture theatres placed in a position of prominence at the podium edge. The podium of basalt and pre-cast panels provides appropriate screening and insulation to these sensitive areas, filtering controlled natural light through protected openings and skylights to characterise and articulate the learning experience.
At the centre of complex are two interconnected spaces that create a sense of scholarly community. A welcoming forecourt or open square that is defined through the gentle curve of the embracing forms, and the central atrium which connects vertically all levels of the building complex. Suspended within this atrium are the social-hub bridges that form the collegial focus for informal gathering and exchange on platforms that are busy points of interaction looking out to the beautiful natural landscape of the Auckland Domain.