Case Study: The Rock, Wellington Airport (NZ)


In this Case Study, we look at 'The Rock', an award winning project by Studio Pacific Architecture. The team used ARCHICAD to complete the extensive project.

About the project

The first task was to meet a set of complex technical specifications and optimize the available pocket building site, heavily constrained by aircraft choreography. In conjunction with external apron works, the project involved the expansion of an interior open lounge floor area, new retail space, links from the new passenger processing area, and an increase to eight airbridge-capable gates.

As the gateway to Wellington for international passengers, the brief also demanded that the building offer a memorable visitor experience through a unique, edgy aesthetic that embodied a strong sense of place.

The Inspiration

The oscillating outline of the new building was derived from the curved indentations of airplane docks into the confined triangular site. The organic irregularity of this outline dovetailed with the concept of the building as a crusty, enigmatic rock embedded in the runway - a gesture to the land's geological past, recalling its kinship with the craggy, sea-battered Wellington coast.

A radical departure from contemporary airports worldwide, preoccupied with the imagery of lightness and flight, the Rock terminal evokes instead the anchoring qualities of the land that rises to meet planes as they touch down and the coast that recedes away from them as they depart. Its copper finish is a mirror for Wellington's swift transitions from grey sky to gold sunlight, as well as providing unparalleled durability in a corrosive environment of sea air and aircraft fuel gases.

The Results

In contrast to the bland, mall-like interiors that typify most international airports, the interior of the Rock exudes warmth and resounds with personality. Honey-colored macrocarpa ply softens theatrical strata of dark-stained panels fissured with light.

Spaces unfold on varying levels and exploration is welcomed, with journeys through the interior gently modulated by a series of ramps. Travellers are able to enjoy interior areas that are engaging and restful, impressive and intimate.

About Studio Pacific Architecture

Studio Pacific was established in Wellington in 1992 by Nicholas Barratt-Boyes, B. Arch, ANZIA, RIBA; Stephen McDougall, B.B.Sc, B.Arch, FNZIA; and Evzen Novak, B. Arch (Hons), ANZIA, RIBA. Prior to establishing the Studio, the directors studied and/or worked together in New Zealand before working for a period in Europe. The collective international experience greatly influenced the direction of the practice. From early design competitions and small residential commissions, Studio Pacific has evolved into an award-winning creative practice with diverse projects throughout New Zealand.

Studio Pacific undertakes a large range of projects, from small individual furniture items to large projects involving entire new towns. The small scale work includes new houses, additions and alterations, and retail work. The larger schemes include large, multi-unit residential and commercial buildings as well as master plans and landscaping.