LandLAB 12 Commercial Bay Sky Terrace

Public and Institutional Spaces 2021 Credits
  • Creative Director
    Henry Crothers
  • Design Directors
    Scott Greenhalgh, Ethan Reid
  • Team Member
    Luke Veldhuizen
  • Contributors
    Warren and Mahoney, Holmes Consulting, RCP, Woods Bagot
  • Client
    Precinct Properties

The ‘Sky Terrace’ located on the tower podium at Commercial Bay is an urban rooftop landscape connecting historic processes of reclaiming the city from the sea with contemporary processes of ‘raising the city to the sky’.

The client brief identified criteria and principles from considerable market research into value of high-quality open space within commercial development. A key design principle for the development was to create an authentic place to experience the unique identity, and cultural richness of Tāmaki Makaurau.

Our design approach employs an overarching narrative and design language that communicates the geological, ecological, and cultural stories of the site and its context. This reinforces Commercial Bay’s presence at the heart of the Auckland city centre waterfront. The design concept is informed by the interaction of coastal edge ecologies (fluid) and the reclaimed city morphology (grid). A generative design strategy has been used to inform shape, topography, and arrangement of elements, capturing the dynamic interface and working systems of the former coastal edge zone through a range of episodic experiences within a cohesive whole.

The Sky Terrace combines three spaces in one – the main ‘terrace’ (north), ‘social’ and ‘garden’ rooms flanking the tower to the east and west. The stone ground plane establishes a singular connective surface; an abstract ‘graphic field’ derived from the underlying waterfront hydrology. The garden is conceived as an authentic ecology, reintroducing rare and endangered native plant species typical of cliff tops into the city’s public realm.
Carefully articulated ‘sculptural’ furniture elements provide a unique identity for this space. The bespoke seating recalls crafted timber forms of both indigenous and contemporary boat building technologies. A combination of surfaces, architectural frames, moveable furniture, lighting and technology enables a flexible and adaptable space to be appropriated for a range of events and activities supporting a contemporary workplace. The flexible paved space immediately in front of the building lobby responds to a varied programmatic brief, calling for the ability to host outdoor events, dinners, launch parties, morning yoga and bootcamps. Event enabling infrastructure is neatly concealed beneath the stone paving slabs.
The ambitious design concept was fully coordinated with the complex sub-structure of the podium to locate areas of higher loading (trees, mounded gardens and furniture), and make structural changes to allow the successful expression of the roof garden. A key design principle was to enable vegetation to emerge seamlessly from the plane of paving, avoiding prevalent ‘raised edges’ synonymous with many rooftop garden designs.

Across the roof terrace, three carved stone sculptures by artist Chris Bailey (Ngāti Hako, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Paoa Te Aupouri) relate to three unique views out to the Waitematā. One such sculpture represents the water’s surface as a glistening black undulation – exploring the meaning of the name Waitematā as ‘waters of obsidian’.

The project required extensive research and development of green technologies and methods unique to the context of Aotearoa. The rooftop landscape utilises on-site rainwater harvesting and re-use and has supported the wider Commercial Bay project receiving both ‘design’ and ‘as-built’ 5 star Green Star ratings.