LandLAB 12 Graham Tipene Te Mata Topaki

Built Environment 2021 Credits
  • Creative Director
    Henry Crothers
  • Design Director
    Sam Gould
  • Team Members
    Bela Grimsdale, Greer Carmine, Luke Veldhuizen
  • Contributors
    Graham Tipene, Mei Hill
  • Client

Te Mata Topaki is a generatively designed lookout structure functioning as both a destination experience and a vantage point for observing the Viaduct basin, city centre and wider landscape. The Lookout probes 30m into the geographical centre of the Viaduct harbour, visually connecting key destinations and re-connecting people to the water.

The brief was to explore opportunities for new public activation structures that will provide additional character, identity, and functionality to the Viaduct Promenade. A key issue with the Viaduct Promenade was its lack of access and connection to water due to most of the basin being a functioning marina. LandLAB identified an opportunity to create a lookout structure which enabled promenade users the opportunity to walk out beyond the existing seawall and boats to engage with the water, free of visually obstructing marine infrastructure and boats.

The approach reflects the notion of traditional seafaring, boat building and waka – which reinforces ‘Tamaki herenga waka’ (a place of many waka) – was a theme that has informed the ideas behind the new public activation structures. Te Mata Topaki is part of a series of place-based design interventions that re-invigorate within Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour. The form and cultural narrative of the lookout is drawn from a collaborative design process with mana whenua artist Graham Tipene and takes references from the taurapa; an elaborately carved sternpost that are positioned vertically at the stern of great waka taua (war canoe).

The name, Te Mata Topaki derives from ‘topaki’ translating to ‘to hover like a bird’. The lookout hovers over the water offering the user to experience the feeling of being on a waka and hovering like a bird between Tangaroa (the ocean) and Ranginui (the sky). The lookout becomes an extension of Papatūānuku, hovering between the realms of Tangaroa and Ranginui through its strong, simple, and sculptural form which appears to hover above the water itself.

Topaki ‘to hover (like a bird)’. Te Mata ‘the headland’ Te Mata Topaki ‘the hovering headland’.

The balustrade is constructed of a layered series of sculptural vertical fins and x2 glass panels. Each fin has a unique shape created through a generative design process that abstracts and expresses the form of the Taurapa of the waka. Each glass panel offers users an uninterrupted sightline of the water.

The project re-organises existing marine infrastructure by integrating a private berth holder access gate without sacrificing the design narrative behind Te Mata Topaki. The gate camouflages itself within the generative balustrade. The security access gate functions seamlessly as an extension of the
A generous lookout width enables both berth holder and public to coexist without conflict.

Lighting is seamlessly concealed within the balustrade capping rail design. It enhances the 3D form of the balustrade to create a sensory night-time experience. Te Mata Topaki exemplifies the on-going transformation of the Viaduct precinct and its commitment to design excellence, innovation and sustainability.