This world-class sports stadium has quickly become a part of Wellington’s folklore and a much beloved centre for a variety of sporting and entertainment events. Affectionately known to out-of-towners as ‘the cake-tin’, it is now firmly established as a ‘must see’ for visitors to Wellington. It was the first complete stadium in New Zealand designed from scratch, on a greenfield site, avoiding compromises generated by functional and formal conflicts with existing stands from different eras.
Sited on reclaimed land, the stadium sits by the sea but in an industrial area, only a stone’s throw from the city centre. The only purpose built stadium in New Zealand, with a seating capacity of 34,500, it is used primarily for rugby and cricket but also concerts, international track and field events, exhibitions, trade shows and community functions. Its design developed from the idea of a simple compact cylindrical form enclosing the playing field which would develop a strong relationship with its surrounding environment. The simple but dramatically effective concept comprises an oval-shaped seating bowl enclosed externally by a tight metal skin, with a thin roof-plane hovering above the seating. Four tall light-towers define the arena and signal its presence from afar. A grand pedestrian plaza provides access from the south, making a strong linkage to the railway station and downtown Wellington. At this southern end, part of the enclosing skin is pulled away, creating a tall sky-lit slot within which escalators ascend, providing the principal access to corporate suites and lounges above. A majestically wide internal concourse, running completely around the stadium, is a connection device providing easy access to all facilities and a meeting place for those seated at different parts of the stadium.
In its design this stadium is reduced to a simple coliseum-like form comprising a limited number of distinct elements – the seating bowl, its enclosing skin, the floating roof and light-towers. Outwardly the structure is suppressed, avoiding the structural gymnastics often associated with buildings of this type. Its external skin is punched with a regular diagonal pattern of slotted openings which admit natural light to the concourse by day and radiate a dynamic pattern of light externally by night, while the interior focuses on the playing field. The slotted openings also provide views to the harbour, city and surrounding hills on all sides.
The overall result is an urban sculpture made up of a limited number of essential elements reinforcing the oval; a continuous seating bowl, tight enclosing skin, floating roof and an elevated entry plaza.
Designed in association with Bligh Lobb Sports.
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