This project, a combination of a perfect site, a client who wanted a memorable building, extensive consultation and community inclusion has created a striking Academy of Performing Arts for the University of Waikato. The criteria was to create a building of ‘design distinction’, an ‘iconic building’ which would ‘add lustre to the campus as a whole’.
The academy is designed to serve both the University and the Hamilton community; a place where students hone their performance skills before taking these out into the community. It provides a unique venue for the teaching, rehearsal and performance of the four performing arts disciplines of music, drama, dance and Kapa Haka.
The form is composed of four different linear elements of varying lengths, which almost touch at their mid-points and curve away at their ends. Lower-level circulation spaces connect the four elements, while immediately in front of the complex is a moss-covered embankment sloping down to a path which follows the shoreline of the lake before winding its way over other parts of the complex.
Teaching, rehearsal and performance spaces are contained within each of the linear elements, while foyers and circulation areas occupy the spaces between. This reflects the parallel development of each discipline, and promotes interaction between them as well as between the audience and performers. The exterior is imposing, projecting out towards the lake, creating a dramatic view from the inside looking out. The sight-lines provided by the ground-to-ceiling expanses of glass in the front of the halls and the connecting zones are exceptionally clear.
The foyer and concert chamber’s sprung floors consist of rustic hevea, separated in the central bar area by grey slate tiles, while the flooring in the Whare Tapere and dance studio is European beech. The playhouse is floored with merbau.
The Whare Tapere, the Maori cultural performance studio, is at the forefront of the complex. Towering high, and lined with plywood panels, it opens directly onto the bush through sliding glass panels so that the front wall is virtually an open space, blurring the distinction between the space within and the environment outside. The dance studio has 10 metre high walls of pale ply panels, exposed steel ceiling beams and a dancer’s barre. The playhouse seats 240. Seating can be re-configured to surround the stage or to rise in tiers from it in more conventional setout. Folding acoustic panels line the playhouse on two sides.
The fourth performance area, the concert chamber, is totally enclosed. Seating 340 on dark blue upholstered seats of business-class comfort, the chamber features a large stage and ply panel walls, sloping on two sides.
The academy has two spacious green rooms, three dressing rooms upstairs and a dressing room equipped with a kitchen. The windows of the upstairs rooms afford wide views over the remainder of the campus buildings.
The project was commissioned as the result of a design competition, and was developed in association with Aecom of Hamilton.
This site does not display as intended on some browsers like Internet Explorer 6. Please update your browser.