Te Waka Huia - The home for creativity

Taking out the 2020 ADNZ Resene Commercial/Industrial Architectural Design Award was the special Te Waka Huia project by Cameron Grindlay of Dwelling Architectural Design.

Acting as the new Visual and Performing Arts Centre for Dunedin’s St Hilda’s Collegiate School, Te Waka Huia was crafted after the Maori term ‘waka huia’ which means a treasure box which holds precious adornments. In this case, the staff, students, and the work they create.

Containing spaces for dance, drama, live performance, photography and visual art, Te Waka Huia needed to serve many functions while being respectful of its inner city residential location.

Acoustic angled wall and ceiling panelling was used to ensure high sound quality in performance spaces while reducing reverberation in classroom spaces and minimising the impact on neighbouring homes.

Raking up from single story at the entrance through to a double height performance space and mezzanine floor, the home for performing arts achieves a clean, crisp design without feeling institutional, while the scale ensures the building does not dominate its surroundings.

A restrained external material palette on the façade plays with white longrun and cedar serving as the background for pops of blue, while internally colours are kept warm and neutral to not compete with students creativity.

Te Waka Huia is neither theatrically showy and obtrusive, nor conservative and anonymous. A respectful approach to a visual and performing arts centre which breaks the mould and nurtures the creativity which takes place within.

Photography by Sean Walker.