Aotea - Te Pokapū Aotea Centre transformed
Published: 4 Apr 2022
Auckland’s cultural landmark Aotea Centre has been transformed following a $67.5m, four-year refurbishment.
The centre is one of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s most versatile performance, event and convention venues in the heart of the city’s theatre district.
The first major revamp for the centre since it opened in 1990, the project was part of Auckland Council’s 10-year $133 million midtown regeneration programme ─ a series of development projects and street upgrades that will significantly revitalise the area.
Mayor Phil Goff says the refurbished Aotea Centre will attract visitors from Auckland, New Zealand and—once the borders reopen—around the world.
“Auckland’s midtown is already a significant cultural precinct, home to the Auckland Town Hall, The Civic, Aotea Square and Auckland Art Gallery,” he says.
“The refurbishment of this premier venue in the heart of our city will add to the area’s vibrancy once the new City Rail Link Aotea Station is complete, and bring tens of thousands of people to the area daily.”
Auckland Unlimited Chief Executive Nick Hill says the centre refurbishment has resulted in a modern, vibrant and versatile venue that can cater for a wide variety of events and experiences.
“This iconic building has a legacy of hosting world-class shows, conventions and events in Auckland for more than three decades. With this redevelopment, we can proudly place Aotea – Te Pokapū Aotea Centre on the global stage, along with the very best Aotearoa has to offer.”
According to programme director Matt Wheeler, delivering a beautiful, fit-for-purpose building for the people of Tāmaki Makaurau was an extremely rewarding for the project team. “Aotea – Te Pokapū Aotea Centre is such an important landmark. Some of the world’s greatest artists have performed on its stage, including our very own Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The team felt a huge responsibility to ensure this amazing performing arts venue could continue to be a fitting backdrop for the once-in-a-lifetime live experiences that take place there.”
A distinctive new exterior
The centre’s exterior has undergone essential waterproofing and aesthetic upgrades, with new roofing and cladding, a curtain wall and skylight in the main atrium and an upgraded smoke extraction system.
A key feature is the modernisation of the large balcony on the centre’s top level. Additional strengthening and installation of an almost-frameless glass balustrade means visitors can now enjoy extensive views of Aotea Square, while a distinctive fascia ribbon creates a sense of movement and dance along the facade.
Refreshed interior spaces
Inviting floor-to-ceiling glass welcomes visitors into the striking multi-level atrium, creating a light-filled, versatile space. New lighting, floor and wall treatments create a vibrant ambience, with award-winning bilingual wayfinding on all levels.
The refreshed convention wing complements the 2000-seat Kiri Te Kanawa theatre, and the upgraded foyers provides enhanced exhibition space. Refreshed bars and bathrooms, a new box office and new balustrades, and feature lighting complete the internal upgrade, with a modern look that also brings all aspects of the centre up to code compliance.
Nick Hill says enhanced accessibility has been an important goal during the refurbishment: “We have incorporated a range of design improvements to make the centre more accessible for our visitors.”
These include contrasting materials at the top and bottom of stairs and ramps to highlight the change; Braille signage and lighting in the centre of handrails; automatic opening doors to all entrances from Aotea Square and the Civic car park; reconfigured internal ramps for easier access; accessible counters at the bars, box office and cloak room; upgrading the hearing loops within the main foyer and convention spaces; and upgrading all the accessible toilets.
Digital art installation celebrating Te Ao Māori
A large-scale digital art installation by renowned Aotearoa multi-disciplinary artist Lisa Reihana features in the centre’s refreshed foyers. Ihi is one of the country’s most significant contemporary works of Māori art. The work tells the story of Ranginui and Papatūānuku on two 65 sqm screens that can be viewed from three levels.
“Ihi is an important addition to Aotearoa New Zealand’s public art,” says Nick Hill, “and the centre houses many other significant works that are free for the community to come in and enjoy.
“Along with Auckland Town Hall, The Civic and Aotea Square, Aotea Centre is at the heart of so many wonderful cultural and community events and activities for Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. This refurbishment will ensure it remains a safe, accessible and vibrant arts hub for decades to come.”