RLC Design Sir Howard Morrison Centre

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Sally Smyth
  • Pou Taketake / Cultural Lead
    Kingi Biddle
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Director
    Nick Johansson
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Member
    Kirsty Wilson

Te haerenga ki naianei: The journey to now
The Sir Howard Morrison Centre is a cultural hub, the pūmanawatanga, beating heart, where Māori and Pākehā culture, manaakitanga and toi whakaari are woven together.
The original Municipal Building (1938), with Spanish mission influences, served as the civic centre and was converted into a convention centre in 1995. It became a performing arts venue in 2014, then closed to the public in 2017 for earthquake strengthening and refurbishing. A new visual identity was developed for the centre when it reopened in 2023.
The brief required a clean, dynamic design that reflected the history of the venue, as well as the performing arts in local, national and international contexts. It was a critical element of the brief that the design fit within the new Rotorua brand framework, reflecting the collaborative nature of the venue and to illustrate whakapapa to the district. The design has been created for all to enjoy and interpret via the individual and collective experiences that performers and audiences alike will have at the Sir Howard Morrison Centre.
A cultural partnership between mana whenua – Ngāti Whakaue, the Morrison whānau and Te Arawa ensured a strong foundation underpinned all elements of the building redevelopment project.
He kupu whakamārama: The tohu explained
The tohu is comprised of three elements to create one unified identity:
• The first shape portrays the Tūī, an eloquent speaker, a melodious singer, a powerful actor personified.
• The second shape depicts ‘He manu nuku he manu ora,’ a bird that moves is a bird that lives. ‘Te haka a Tānerore,’ the air that shimmers as it rises up on a hot summer's day represents movement in all genres of performing arts.
• The third shape is looking to the past to guide the future.
It was important that the Sir Owen Glenn Theatre and Te Haumako, The Black Box Theatre have a distinct identity whilst being clearly identifiable as a part of the overall Sir Howard Morrison Centre brand family. The Sir Owen Glenn tohu is rich in tones of purple and red to reflect the traditional theatrical colours within the interior of the Sir Owen Glenn Theatre, whilst maintaining a visual connection to the brilliant plumage of the Tūī.
Te Haumako, The Black Box Theatre, is a space where flexibility is key to function. It made sense to respond to this by wrapping the tohu within a box-like form. It is a designated performance space that is not defined by a brand colour or any other prescriptive treatment.
The SHMC brand identity is the second in a whānau of tohu to be established under the new Rotorua brand, creating a story of connectedness for all people, celebrating our distinct bicultural nature as well as honouring the urban and natural environment of Rotorua as a destination.