Voyager of the seas

05 Jul 2011

Pete Bossley Architects completes major extension for NZ Maritime Museum

This extension to the NZ Maritime Museum in Auckland is designed to house an exhibition of New Zealand yachting, from early small boats through to NZL32, which first won the America's Cup for New Zealand. NZL32 is suspended within the main space, within an exhibition which recognises the life of Sir Peter Blake and many aspects of small yacht and offshore racing.

The client brief called for a modification which announced to the world that changes were happening at the Museum. Run on a tight budget, the Maritime Museum is slowly undergoing changes in a number of stages. These first stage extensions needed to be completed within very limited budget and time constraints. The building was to excite and encourage exploration of the technologies and experiences of yachting.

The alteration expands the building outwards and upwards, in a series of planes which explode the traditional form of the sheds. To the east an extension pushes over the sea, housing a series of beautiful yachts portraying the history of New Zealand small boat sailing. The existing sheds remain expressed - at night the large plane becomes a huge light box with magical effects across the water.

Planes of polycarbonate cladding contrast with the traditional buildings. Shifts from the orthogonal, combined with changing colour-shifts and transparency /reflectivity of the polycarbonate, suggest the ephemeral conditions of wind, light and swell which are integral to the yachting experience. Slithers of glazing partially reveal the exhibits from outside, and the sea from within.

Natural light provides rippling surfaces inside and suggests the sailing environment. Spaces glow with the softly transmitted light passing thought the double-skin multi-cellular polycarbonate, which has good UV and thermal protection properties. Visitors are confronted by the powerful form of the black hull hovering in space above. Instead of the usual ugly cradle, the boat is suspended from its own rigging

An extended architectural promenade leads from the main space out to the wharf edge, and onto the ramp which winds up past the small boats, in the soft light and dappled reflections from the sea, then back into the main space to continue climbing, this time around NZL32 and up to the high point where the Americas Cup is displayed. Along this 100m ramp the visitors experience numerous displays and viewpoints of the yachts.

The extension adds a new twist to the museum by virtue of exciting internal spaces, and provides dynamic external facades which announce the presence of its interior purpose. Raw materials rub shoulders with high technology polycarbonate, just as the gritty wharf environment contrasts with the technological extremes embodied in yacht racing, while the great architectural standards of space, light and movement are brought into play to reinforce the belief that architecture is, above all, to be experienced.

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