Auckland Museum living roof project

Image by Abdul Zainui with Andy Lockyer, Jaqs Clarke and Desmond Burdon. Rocking chair by Linda Ea

Image by Abdul Zainui with Andy Lockyer, Jaqs Clarke and Desmond Burdon, Rocking chair by Linda Ea

Here are a selection of final images and drawings to complete the work on the Auckland Museum living roof project started in 2012 in ArchGen721. As the course ended at the conceptual design phase without the benefit of a full design studio, the students weren’t able to attempt any final design work, and so I worked with Andy Lockyer, Abdul Zainui and with input from Desmond Burdon (photography) and Sadra Saffari (graphic design), to create these images to attempt to describe the overall student concept design to the Auckland Museum senior management staff, and hopefully to other interested Aucklanders also.

Concept drawing J Clarke on existing elevation plan (Noel Lane Architects)

Concept drawing J Clarke on existing elevation plan (Noel Lane Architects)

Though the Museum was primarily interested in the green roof at the outset of this project they also had overall concerns about the efficiency of the museum envelope. We took a whole building approach, evaluating it through Louis Kahn’s metaphors as an integrated biological system. We also included the theme of cultural infrastructure and the idea of flow and attraction because the museum is under patronised, and economics is integral to sustainability design.

design concept (detail) J Clarke

design concept (detail)
J Clarke

From a teaching perspective the process of integrating the theoretical, cultural, ecological and technical is an explorative methodology and so we are evolving new design processes as we go. The model we used here is a simultopia complexity model. The students had to work in clusters, but with a mind to the whole group as an ensemble, which was challenging, even just from a practical time limitation viewpoint. The aim was to encourage the students to use the synergy and overlap between the group concerns to develop the design. We wanted each design decision to have multiple positives that spread across the various layers of the project.

The Museum roof photo gallery pre-design photos are here

The design objectives were to open up the space to reclaim both the natural ventilation and original light design, rediscover external and internal vistas of the heritage exterior spaces of the building, harvest the rich air currents that sweep across the site and reveal the dramatic panorama of the surrounding cityscape. We wanted the building to become an integrated part of the urban fabric and not the solitary sentinel on the hill. We wanted it to be a living environment and a place you could move through on the way to somewhere else, so that there were multiple flow pathways moving across the site. We began by reading Patrick Gillies on outlook towers, who wrote at the beginning of last century that it is the role of the urban museum to reflect back upon its context.

The students proposed a sheltered mezzanine suspended courtyard in the middle of the building that achieved a number of functions. The suspended mezzanine connects both roof wings of the building, provides internal access from the museum onto the roof space, creating a multi-level outdoor exterior space. Additionally by adding a pergola above parts of the mezzanine we were able to create microgeneration, shade and shelter from wind and rain while simultaneously allowing light diffusion into the Maori Court below. The daring part of the student design requires the potentially costly removal of a false roof that was installed across the Maori Court to store aircon ducting, that in turn blocks natural light flow through the original ornate glass ceiling that is still in place. It’s not just the removal of the roof and ducting, but the cost of implementing a new ventilation system that potentially makes our design pure speculation. On the other hand, the original building was designed for natural ventilation and for aerial light diffusion in a range of glass ceilings. Renzo Piano used natural ventilation in his much acclaimed recent sustainable design exemplar at the Californian Science Academy. However additional humidity control would be the expensive component of a rethink on atmosphere. Despite the fact that much of the Auckland Museum collection is displayed inside glass cases, the cost of aircon and humidity control is a very big drain on the museum’s resources (around $700,000 NZ dollars per year in energy costs with humidity control taking a big chunk of that). The building naturally breathes and an efficient air-con system requires a completely hermetic environment for efficient functioning, and it’s that inefficiency in the current hybrid model that is expensive to maintain. Our research revealed that the adoption of aircon in the middle of last century, also included a loss of natural light into the building, as the ducting and mechanics of the system was inserted into external spaces that then needed screening off from the interior of the building. The Museum continued to block off light through most gallery spaces and thus now thus the Museum has a generalised low-light ambience, an architectural condition that means its peak visiting times are rainy days or wet weekends.

The design included a wind analysis and the implementation of low-height helical wind turbines to the southern-side external roof to harness the prevailing southwesterly wind. Collecting rainwater from stormwaterto recycle through the gallery ablution systems and water features throughout the roof space, and living garden would also be an integrated part of the overall scheme . The living roof would create a new microclimate through the capture and treatment of storm water, providing extra insulation and cooling capacity to the building, increasing biodiversity in the park, while providing Aucklanders with a new public space returning the original vista from the tip of the former volcanic cone of Pukekawa to the people of Auckland. The planting scheme was intended to incorporate as many native New Zealand plants endemic to volcanic summits in Auckland, so as to also draw upon the Museum’s botanical history.

Lastly one of the most edgy parts of our design includes external access as the students felt that they wanted access to the roof to not always require movement through the internal space. Thus we designed external stairways so that the public can ascend onto the roof from the Domain. Obviously the Museum would have to monitor that access but could have open day sundays or on their low number days, giving them the capacity to capture flow into the museum from the roof, while additionally providing, both fire escapes and an external entrance to the dome corporate space when other events in the atrium below prevent access. We think the Museum green roof also provides the Domain with its highest vantage point and thus a focus.

Synergistic ecological design requires that all dimensions of a design exist in dynamic relationship, mutually transforming the whole. Those dynamic relationships in the design also need to exist on the human level. I don’t think the process was perfect. But complexity never is. Though it was a fantastic learning opportunity and we all benefitted from that. Thanks so much to an excellent crew of students who are all named below. You can read more about our process here Thanks also to Karl Satchell and John Glen at Auckland Museum for supporting this project. There is a lot more technical data in the research than we have the resources to share such as wind and light analysis, and photo voltaic outputs, and obviously the overall performance capacity of the green roof, and we haven’t addressed the strenghthening of the building issues etc. We also have not really been able to complete visuals for the light diffusion aspect of our design or the mezzanine but we are happy to share with you what we did achieve… So we looked for multiple positive synergies and this is our design.We hope you like the design and one day get to stand on the roof of the Museum with native New Zealand grasses under your feet, Rangitoto in the distance, and the living fabric of Auckland streaming below.

Concept drawing section J Clarke with Brian Harris

Concept drawing section J Clarke with Brian Harris

This image reveals some of the original architecture that was intended to be viewed from the external space as in the semi circular lead light glass window. This area of the Museum is in real life the service area and ducting, heating and cooling pipes snake across the surfaces. The section drawing shows the mezzanine profile after the existing false roof has been removed and the access stairways providing a range of levels to the design to create both exposed and sheltered spaces.

Concept drawing Andy Lockyer with J Clarke and Desmond Burdon

Concept drawing Andy Lockyer with J Clarke and Desmond Burdon

Image by  J Clarke and Desmond Burdon

Image by J Clarke and Desmond Burdon

The new summit garden is a museological exterior, created with indigenous plant forms set amongst an array of social environments. The botanical layer references Auckland Museum’s own long standing botanical programme that began in 1929 with botanist Lucy Cranwell who published some of the first books exclusively dedicated to Auckland’s botanical history.

simultopia model diagram - J Clarke

simultopia model diagram – J Clarke

The diagram has an organic feel a lot like the process of thinking through a simultopia. Different layers are in constant overlap, to understand a complex project is like twisting a diamond and allowing various facets to be revealed, there is a figure-ground reversal action. It’s a dynamic conversation.

The first three metaphors we took from Louis Kahn’s energy-efficient building design that he realised
for the Richards Medical Laboratory.

Metaphor 1: A building as a natural light diffuser /heat exchanger
Metaphor 2: A building as a creator of micro-climates and integrated biological system
Metaphor 3: A building as a functional part of its environment

but then we added two more of our own to update the methodology to include social and economic dimensions of the Museum

Metaphor 4: A building as an attractor of flow
Metaphor 5: A building as cultural infrastructure

The final two metaphors allowed us to address sustainability at the urban scale. What kind of function does the Museum perform economically for the region also? Each design layer was constantly transforming other design layers as the process unfolds. Each metaphor was assigned to a group of three students. The challenge of this model was for students to grapple with the themes and technicality of their own research, and become literate and confident enough to communicate their specialist aspect within the larger design framework. We all talk about synergy as a natural gravitation towards something, but developing a conscious choice for synergy requires more than just preference.

Diagram J Clarke

Diagram J Clarke

In order to address number flows we considered the difference between an urban attraction and an urban attractor?

1. An urban attraction is a destination. An urban attractor is a convergence point of multiple pathways.
2. A visit to an urban atttraction is a special perhaps one-off occasion, while an urban attractor facilitates
local everyday movement.
3. An urban attraction is more often visited by outsiders, tourists and visitors from elsewhere while an
attractor is facilitated by local participation.
4. An urban attraction may contribute to the vitality of the urban condition of its location, while an attractor is
both a catalyst and condition of urban vitality and wellbeing.

We discovered that there is a lack of continuity in pedestrian pathways towards the building,as well as a lack of signage. The main footpath from the city ends in the carpark by the pond below the museum where the lighting also stops, pedestrians from Newmarket compete on a narrow roadway. There is a lack of signage and continuity of lighting towards the museum. The carpark is located at the rear of the building away from the entrance, etc. The attractor model aims to position the Museum as a central nexus between the urban CBD,the university, hospital, Newmarket, Karangahape Road, Parnell and Remuera and then the city beyond.

The Isthmus of Auckland with its extinct Volcanoes, Dr Ferdinand von Hochstetter 1859. Diagram J Clarke

The Isthmus of Auckland with its extinct Volcanoes,
Dr Ferdinand von Hochstetter 1859.
Diagram J Clarke


Viewlines from the former crater of Pukekawa the site of Auckland Museum towards the volcanic field of greater Auckland and beyond, as pictured on Dr Ferdinand von Hochstetter’s Map (1859).

Mt Eden  J Clarke/ Hochstetter (1859)

Mt Eden
J Clarke/ Hochstetter (1859)

The design team from ArchGen 721 2012 was: Qimeng Cheng, Samantha Collins, Melissa Harrison, Michael Parr, Lucy Hayes-Stevenson, Mona Ibrahim, Philippa Jopp, Joo Eun Kim, Lisa Liao, Andy Lockyer, Sacha Milocevich, Teresa Munro, Yusef Patel, Zoe Thompson and Abdul Zainui. Project Design: Jaqs Clarke

Thanks to the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland for supporting this project especially Assoc Professor Sarah Treadwell, Dr Michael Linzey, Judy Cockeram, Kathy Waghorn, Uwe Rieger, and Dermott McMeel.

Also big thanks to Desmond Burdon (photography), Zoe Zimmerman (Living Roofs), Sadra Saffari (graphic design), Sam Edwards, Linda Ea for her rocking revival chair design, Graham Cleary (Natural Habitats), Peter Connolly, Diane Blomfield, John Glen, Karl Satchell, Ewan Cameron and the many staff of the Museum who helped us with this project.

The images and text of this project are shared under Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) which you can read about here Creative Commons

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2 thoughts on “Auckland Museum living roof project

  1. Pingback: eyeonauckland » Auckland Inspired

  2. Pingback: Students create living roof design concept for Auckland Museum | Happyzine | Because good news makes a difference

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