Cultural Crossing

The visual identity of the Cultural Crossing commercial building is an exploration of the historical connections between Iwi and The Crown in Rotorua.

At the time of developing the base build concept, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council was secured as a tenant and their specific requirements dictated the base build brief to some extent.

It needed to achieve on-site car parking, ideally for 20 or more, plus two large floor plates to maximise the site. The site came with geotechnical challenges which suggested a multi-level building would require consideration of lighter construction methods the higher it went. A portion of the site would allow for northerly views to the Lake Rotorua waterfront and it was desirable to achieve office floors with this outlook. A fundamental requirement of the developer was to eliminate any need for internal roof gutters.

The crossroads of Fenton and Pukaki Streets in Rotorua CBD represents the intersection of two cultures meeting, and their subsequent story of New Zealand and Rotorua history.

The iconic Pukaki is the carved representation of a Ngati Whakaue ancestral Rangatira (chief) that once stood at the base of the Pukeroa Pa, above Ohinemutu. In 1877 Pukaki was presented by Ngati Whakaue to the Chief Judge at that time, Francis Dart Fenton, in recognition of proceeding with development of Rotorua township. The presentation was seen as a seal of trust between The Crown and Ngati Whakaue. The design of the building at this key site allows acknowledgment of the importance of the cultural crossover between Fenton and Pukaki.

The outward faces of the two street elevations have been articulated to represent two cultures meeting on the corner. Pukaki Street references traditional Taniko patterning and colourways of traditional Māori heritage, with modern interpretation and application. The Fenton Street face of the building offers cues of colonial heritage, with more regimented framework in line with Pakeha’s general tendency for more structured regularity such as the traditional colonial picket fence.


Creative solutions:

In meeting the requirements of the brief, DCA Architects explored several solutions, which included carparking on upper levels and variations of 3-5 level buildings. The optimum design solution was to locate the parking requirements on the ground floor, with two large floor plates of office above. A small tenancy identified for a café was located adjacent to the main building entrance lobby.

The upper floors are recessed from the boundary to meet fire restrictions, which also allowed for northerly light and views towards the lake front. The ground floor level of carparking is secured with a Kaynemaile breathable screen to meet natural light and ventilation requirements. DCA Architects worked closely with engineers to decide on a Hybrid structure that met the requirements for aspect of light weight and fire. The superstructure is steel with CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) intermediate floor panels, clad in curtain wall and SIP’s (Structurally Insulated Panels). The CLT floor panels were the first to be produced at the new Red Stag facility in Rotorua and DCA Architects were instrumental in the partnership between developer and supplier. The use of local mass structural timber reduced the amount of concrete foundations while using a sustainable local material.

The ability to print directly to glass, while not new technology, had become more economical and this technology aided the design for a contemporary interpretation of historic Taniko patterns to the Pukaki Street facade. Additionally, the translation of historical patterns to a modern medium offers added layers of depth to the design, which are physically evident in an ever-changing manner during each day’s changing light. The solar white shading fins to the western façade of Fenton Street offer a nod towards the rigour of the colonial picket.

While researching historical references for the building, DCA sourced a bathymetric plan of Lake Rotorua, which maps the contours below the water. This graphic has been used in a contemporary translation on the glazed Fenton Street veranda.

By night, strong directional lighting emphasises the vertical elements of the structure, providing powerful lines to visually anchor the building’s mass while extending its perception of height.

The project received a commendation at the 2020 ADNZ regional award competition.

[Photography: Simon Devitt]

Project Details

  • Status: Completed in 2020
  • Client: TPB Properties Ltd
  • Size: 2,100 sq. m
  • Cost: $6M