RCG ltd 17 Pukeroa Oruawhata Lakefront Holdings Wai Ariki

  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Alex Liang, John Lenihan, John Long, Phil Holden, Fleur Ford, Jamie Howard, Andy Florkowski, Calvyn Le Roux, Malcolm Short, Alec Wilson, Monty Morrison, Tina Ngatai, Jeanna Love, Rawiri Waru, David Tapsell, Alexander Wilson, Mark Gibb, Peter Falkner
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Pukeroa Oruawhata Lakefront Holdings Limited, Belgravia Leisure, Eraia Kiel, Jono Parker, Dallas Hawe, Aaron Hepi, Hohepa Peni, Albert Te Pou, Te Atu Rangi Mohi, Haami Te Aho, Tawharau Mohi, Te Uranga Walker, Shane Poihipi-Paul, Lenny Boonen, Tukiri Tini, Paora Tamati, Inia Maxwell, Rongopai Maxwell, Norma Sturley, Ben Te Amohanga Manley, Clarke Contracting, Hawkins, WSP, Dobbie, Veros, SLR Consulting, Boffa Miskell, Stratum, Coombes Aquatics
  • Client
    Pukeroa Oruawhata Lakefront Holdings Limited
Judge's comments:

Wai Ariki encapsulates Ngāti Whakaue's aspirations, harmonizing cultural practices with healing in an evocative volcanic-inspired environment.


The Internationally renowned spa heritage of Rotorua, and legacy of Ngāti Whakaue culture, healing practises and manaakitanga, stretches back over 650 years. Ngāti Whakaue has welcomed visitors to the area to immerse themselves in its medicinal and wellbeing properties since the early 1800’s, and now aspires to position Rotorua as the Health Spa and Wellness capital of the world.

The brief was to create a luxury wellness facility like no other – architecturally, experientially and culturally– to provide ongoing value and future opportunity for Ngāti Whakaue members and the local community – but to also celebrate and share the culture, healing practices and manaakitanga of Ngāti Whakaue.

The result? Wai Ariki, the chiefly waters.

The architectural beacon and experiences are led by the story of Ngātoroirangi, a high priest of Te Arawa, who called on life-saving geothermal heat when he was close to perishing on the ice of Mt Tongariro. Te Wai Whakaora(The Restorative Journey) and Te Āhuru Mōwai(The Sanctuary) are the 2 primary journeys. Te Wai Whakaora channels this story and takes manuhiri on a guided sensory bathing experience. The kōrero is told through the unique geothermal properties and is amplified through the senses – the soft songs of Ngāti Whakaue, the loud scents of the forest and native herbs, the piercing steam of the Kohu Wai Ariki, the bracing cold of Ice, the stickiness of the thermal mud.

Whilst the culturally significant and striking lakefront location are an important part of the storytelling and biophilic aspirations – the mana whenua led journey, and importance of people, have played an equally significant role in the consideration of well-being. The journey through physical and spiritual senses is infused with Ngāti Whakaue principals, practices, stories and manaakitanga(hospitality). The spa offers a restful experience for recovery and relaxation, but does so in a way which also fosters a deep connection with the land and the people. The building connects manuhiri with the environment and culture, helping to support vitality and strength.

Importance and care have been given to the use of the precious geothermal waters which is also communicated to manuhiri. The waters are used to heat the underfloor(which softens the feeling of the tiles),it is used to heat the indoor air as well as heating the local water supply. This sustainable and biophilic approach contributes to the role the building plays in supporting wellness and well-being.

This innovative use of on-site resources to support the life of the building and experiences of visitors, along with the infusion and direction of local culture and practises-is globally leading.

The palette of the environment is evocative, and is derivative of the volcanic area. Scoria, obsidian and basalt dress many surfaces, but are often softened underfoot by geothermal heating–creating an environment which builds upon the references to the harsh landscape, but implemented in a way which is soothing and textural.

Wai Ariki is the manifestation of the aspirations of Ngāti Whakaue who have invited manuhiri to Rotorua since the 1880’s to share their taonga