This extension to the NZ Maritime Museum is designed to house an exhibition of New Zealand yachting, from early small boats through to NZL32, which first won the America's Cup for this country. NZL32 was gifted to Te Papa, and is now exhibited as a collaboration between Voyager and Te Papa.
The alteration expands the building outwards and upwards, in a series of planes which explode the traditional form of the sheds. To the east an extension pushes over the sea, housing a series of beautiful yachts portraying the history of New Zealand small boat sailing.
NZL32 is suspended within the main space, within an exhibition entitled 'Blue Water Black Magic', a tribute to the life of Sir Peter Blake and to many aspects of small yacht and offshore racing, in a series of well crafted exhibition cases and interactives designed by Workshop e.
Large planes of polycarbonate cladding contrast with the traditional building. Subtle shifts away from the orthogonal, combined with the ever-changing variety of colour, transparency and reflectivity of the polycarbonate, suggest the ephemeral and constantly shifting conditions of wind, light and swell which are integral to the world of yachting. The main eastern panel lifts to follow the ramp inside and partially reveal the exhibits through a slither of glazing underneath, and of the sea from within.
Despite achieving the low light levels required for artefact protection, the spaces glow with the softly transmitted light passing thought the double-skin multi-cellular polycarbonate, which has good UV and thermal protection properties.
Soon after entering from the older galleries, visitors confront the powerful form of the black hull hovering in the space above. Rather than being supported on the usual cradle, the boat is suspended from above by its own rigging: there is no additional mechanism other than that used on the boat in action.
Visitors then follow an extended architectural promenade, from the main space out to the wharf edge, and onto the ramp which winds up past the small boats, in the soft light and dappled reflections from the sea, then back into the main space to continue climbing, this time around NZL32 and up to the high point where the Americas Cup is displayed. Along this 100m ramp the visitors experience numerous displays and viewpoints of the yachts.
At night the large plane facing Prince Wharf becomes a huge light box with magical light effects across the water.
Built to a tight budget and programme, this building attempts to encourage exploration of the technology and form of the yachts, offer a new twist to the museum by virtue of exciting internal spaces, and provide dynamic external facades which announce the presence of its interior purpose. Raw materials rub shoulders with high technology polycarbonate, just as the gritty wharf environment contrasts with the technological extremes embodied in yacht racing, while the great architectural standards of space, light and movement are brought into play to reinforce the belief that architecture is, above all, to be experienced.