Northland Event Centre
The Northland Events Centre is a community project for the northernmost region of New Zealand. Northland Maori claim the first Polynesian landfall to have been on these shores more than 1000 years ago. The region was also the site of the earliest settlement by both Polynesian and European explorers. Today, however, this is a lightly inhabited area with a population of just 150,000 – half of which lives in the city of Whangarei. The project emerged from the coming together of many of the region’s ethnic groups, and was developed jointly by the Regional and the local District Councils. The project’s impetus came from the need to provide a new stadium for 3000 spectators at Okara Park in Whangarei – the local venue for New Zealand’s national game – in readiness for the Rugby World Cup in 2011. As local interest grew, the brief that emerged was to provide much more than facilities just for rugby. Also included in the building is office space for sports and related community bodies, conference areas and reception spaces. It will be a major regional venue for Maori cultural performances and host trade fairs, fashion shows, farmers and craft markets. Other sports such as Soccer and Hockey are also envisaged. Unsurprisingly due to the many and varied requirements of the community brief, the budget was extremely tight. The building is on the busy road between the centre and the port areas of the city. By locating the security fence back from the road boundary and in the same line as the new building, a welcoming frontage to the road could be created. At ground level will be a café and shops creating an urban edge throughout the week, not just on match days. The site design exploits and reinforces the natural amphitheatre of Okara Park. The original pitch was moved approximately 15 metres towards the northern terraces, and the new south stadium, by employing a gentle curve on plan, was brought closely in to the field of play to define an intimate arena. The materials of the building are not out of place in this industrial setting, but they are woven together in an unusual way creating surfaces that slide and forms that have deep recesses. With simple exterior lighting the building comes dramatically to life in the evening. To minimize maintenance the building largely uses self-coloured elements without the addition of applied finishes. The primary materials include natural concrete, zincalume finish profiled steel cladding, and white pvc structural membrane fabric on the roof. The choice of colour captured local support through reference to the badge of the Northland Rugby Club, which combines the blue sky of Northland with the gold of the prized timber of the Kauri. Vibrant highlights of primary blue and yellow have been used on the steelwork to enliven the predominant palette of silver and grey. The blue has again been emphasized in the colour of the stadium seating. The building pioneered the use of a tension membrane canopy for a rugby stadium in New Zealand. This solution was demonstrated to have a number of advantages compared with a conventional steel-clad roof, for example better durability, savings on lighting energy through providing diffuse natural lighting, and performance in fire. A particular benefit under New Zealand daylighting conditions is in the reduction of glare when viewing the sport from underneath a translucent canopy compared to an opaque roof. Two-tiers of stadium seating (rather than a single tier) were adopted to maximize the use of the gathering spaces and corporate boxes, making better connection between seats and the hospitality functions immediately behind them. Through the combination of the curved plan and tiered section, all seats in the new stand have an excellent view of the field. Completed in May 2010, already the new stadium has hosted high-level matches and gained validation as an RWC 2011 venue. In the highly-charged world of international sports tournaments, stadiums are often huge, with matching budgets. In contrast to many such buildings, the Northland Event Centre also functions as a community building with very little wasted space; every square metre within the section is designed to perform a community purpose, for an enduring future beyond the 2011 Rugby World Cup.


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