The new $703 million NZ International Convention Centre is said to be a world-first because unlike similar giants in other cities around the world, the huge new convention centre here will be open on all sides. John Coop, principal of Warren and Mahoney which was one of the architects, says: “This will be the first convention centre in the world with no back door – open on all four sides to the street and the city that surrounds its highly urban site, presenting an open face to all who approach.” But developer/owner SkyCity Entertainment Group says it will be much more than just open. It will enhance the rejuvenation of the CBD’s western edge, being a catalyst for more development in Victoria Quarter and Federal St. “Once up and running, it is expected to attract more than 33,000 new international visitors to New Zealand, generating $90 million of economic benefits to New Zealand annually and 800 jobs. The hotel development will create a further 150 jobs,” that business says.
With a total gross floor area of 85,000sq m, the centre is one of the biggest building projects undertaken in Auckland lately.
This will be this country’s largest purpose-built convention centre, able to host meetings for about 3000 people, or one-off events for 4000 in its grand exhibition floor. That new hall alone will be five times larger than the current largest exhibition hall in this country: the existing Convention Centre’s New Zealand Room, in the existing SkyCity property between Albert St and Federal St. That hall is column-free, with a soaring 9m stud, able to be configured into three individual halls, all accessed from the surrounding street network. Theatre and plenary spaces, areas for trade shows, banqueting facilities – this place is set to be a hub of activity, all with extensive city views and near the City Rail Link’s Aotea Station. The project is part of the estimated $6 billion five-year building boom which the national construction pipeline report says is now going on in Auckland.
This new 300-room five-star elliptical-shaped glass-clad hotel is beside TVNZ at the seaward end of the site. SkyCity at one stage considered selling it, well before it was finished, but changed its mind and instead plans to sell the thousands of its underground car parks, maybe to Wilsons or Tournament although no deal is yet announced. The hotel will have an underground gym and porte-cochere or entrance way accessed off Nelson St. It will accommodate guests at conventions as well as other visitors. When this opens, SkyCity will have nearly 1000 beds at three hotels on its Auckland CBD sites.
A cut-through pedestrian link between Hobson St and Nelson St, to be lined with retail and dining outlets, flanked by the high dramatic walls of the new hotel and centre, expanding the public entertainment precinct, a nod to the popular Vulcan Lane.
SkyCity has 1960 parks below its Auckland casino/hotel site and another 1327 beneath the convention centre site, giving it control of 3287 spaces.
Two of the largest pieces of public art created in this country will be the centre’s exterior, including 2400sqm of glass and 13,500 terracotta tiles for all to see. Works by New Zealand artists Sara Hughes and Peata Larkin were specially commissioned to span 5760sq m once installed on the outside walls.
- Sara Hughes has made a glass artwork to cover 2400sq m on the southern or Wellesley St wall. It is 105m long and 1.5m wide, varying in height from 1.2m to 3.6ml. Installation was under way last month. She has used 60 different colour tones, inspired by her upbringing in rural Northland near the Waipoua kauri forest so that the piece reflects the experience of walking through our bush and looking up through a canopy of trees to see the unique light and colour of the forest.
- Larkin’s terracotta tile wall is 3360sq m: 105m long and about 31m tall, comprising 13,500 tiles. She says she wanted to create an art work “that described the multiple waterways and fertile soil Tāmaki Makaurau (and Aotearoa) possesses, as well as connect strongly and aesthetically to Sara Hughes’ glass work. I wanted to soften the long wall and achieved this by creating an undulated geometric pattern inspired by traditional Maori weaving; a subtle three dimensional presence that would visually change dependent on the angle it was viewed from.” The work will be installed this year at the cut-through dining/restaurant lane way at the TVNZ end of the site.
In the neighbourhood
The NZICC is not the only change in the area. SkyCity is pushing ahead with plans to expand Federal St’s food, drink and entertainment offerings with more outlets around the SkyCity Grand and The Depot, and next year open a new attraction with West Workshop to showcase the All Blacks Experience.
- Anne Gibson
- NZ Herald