Te Papa Tongarewa – The National Museum of Aotearoa New Zealand

Te Papa Tongarewa is the National Museum of Aotearoa New Zealand, located on the Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) waterfront—an iconic museum entertaining millions of visitors from all over the world. Te Papa hosts many stunning artifacts of Aotearoa New Zealand’s cultural heritage, providing a direct link to the country’s recent and distant past. Working in partnership with Arup, Holmes’ engineering experts successfully delivered a landmark structure with a design life of 150 years, in a highly seismic environment.

From a technical perspective, the project was exceptionally challenging. The museum is designed for very heavy floor loads with an extremely large grid to maintain future flexibility for exhibitions and storage of collections. The building foundation platform required ground improvement, with heavy weights dropped across the entire site over several months to compact the softer materials. Te Papa itself is base isolated, resting on lead rubber bearings and teflon sliders that cushion the building, its occupants and contents from earthquake. In fact, the museum actually features an exhibit about earthquakes and how the structure protects against them!

If you haven’t already been to Te Papa, we recommend you schedule it in as soon as possible. While many of the exhibits will take your breath away, don’t forget to enjoy the structure itself—an intelligent engineering design that demonstrates the very best in structural thinking.

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Tāmaki Paenga Hira/Auckland War Memorial Museum is one of New Zealand’s iconic heritage buildings. It is a treasured part of Auckland’s cultural heritage, ‘telling the story of New Zealand’ to a huge number of local, national and international visitors. It’s a site of enormous cultural significance, occupying a commanding position on Auckland’s skyline.

When the structure of the museum needed to be seismically strengthened and modernised, Holmes technical design experts were the logical choice. Our design of this multi-award winning project integrated dramatic architectural and engineering features into a world class facility, bringing a national heritage building into the 21st century.

Structural Strengthening and Fire Design

The museum redevelopment was delivered in two major stages over 12 years. The first stage comprised a well-crafted refurbishment of the existing Historic Places Category I building and exhibition design for all of the gallery spaces. Significant earthquake strengthening and securing works were also undertaken, carefully integrated with existing heritage spaces to preserve the elements that make the building so distinctive and compelling.

The second stage, the Grand Atrium Project, delivered an ambitious, four storey, seven hundred tonne suspended building within the existing courtyard.  An adjacent two-level underground visitor car park was also developed, and overall floor space was increased by 60%. Two storage and curatorial basements were added beneath the stunning ground floor atrium. By utilising a wide variety of performance-based fire engineering design methods, specifically tailored to the constraints imposed by the building’s configuration and uses, Holmes optimised the performance of the egress routes within the addition, minimised the amount of applied fire proofing needed for the structural steelwork and verified the extensive use of architectural timber lining.

Finally, teaching and performance spaces situated within the suspended ‘bowl’ are crowned by the spectacular events centre, under the feature wave dome roof.

Holmes’ engineering services enabled the architect’s original vision for the project to be realised with a minimum of compromise and in a manner that significantly exceeded the client’s expectations.