Aquarium + Ocean Centre of New Zealand Expansion

Napier, New Zealand

As the Design Architect for The National Aquarium of New Zealand, our two-phased initiative will allow the aquarium to fulfill its potential as a model national science and cultural facility. The project will be at the forefront of sustainable and resilient development in a seismically active coastal zone with an integrated design that brings together environmental, cultural, educational, and aesthetic values. The project entails close collaboration with the client as well as exhibit designer Spacehaus, and Maori design consultant, Arahia.

The site at Hawke’s Bay presents the opportunity to restore a rare habitat and create a landscape that interprets the natural environment while celebrating the Maori people and culture. The coastal site is vulnerable to climate change and natural hazards–sea level rise, extreme weather, and seismic activity are the principal design challenges EHDD is addressing with strategies that anticipate future conditions.
EHDD’s architectural approach aligns with the client’s mission to marry scientific and indigenous knowledge to create a facility “that centers Aotearoa New Zealand as the environmental champion for Papatuanuku planet earth and her oceans.” Drawing from both vernacular and biomorphic influences, the building is composed not as a single mass, but as a congregation of smaller volumes that invoke the Maori meeting ground complex (Marae) and meeting house (Wharenui).

The phase one expansion, or “Project Shapeshifter,” takes its inspiration from the Maori demigod and shapeshifter Maui, who personifies innovation and change, to create an immersive exhibit experience, while the phase two Master Plan develops expanded learning spaces and exhibit ideas that build on the themes established in phase one.


National Aquarium of New Zealand


70,000 sf


Master Plan