Auckland Museum 2012

Design Brief – Auckland Museum – Simultopia Conceptual Design Project

“It has been said that attentiveness to the way things work requires an openness to the world, the ability to see “as wide as the sky”, to see the obvious.” Peter Connolly

Design Description

A defining model of contemporary urban museum brings the past, present and future into interesting juxtaposition.

Today the museum is an essential hub within its immediate urban context. As a primary cultural agent, the museum is a vital player within the biological idea of the urban matrix, richly connected to the social and living ecologies of the cityscape, a catalyst of the urban context in which it is positioned.

A simultopia is a complexity model that combines multiple functions within one space. The term simultopia combines Latin and Greek etymological roots, yet also alludes to the post-modern idea of ‘simulacra’. In combining various word fragments across time, cultures and philosophy, the syntactical mixture of the term simultopia parallels its meaning; a pluralism that is simultaneously historical and contemporary, ecological and social – an assemblage of layers that make it of the moment.

The Simultopia Conceptual Design Project for Auckland Museum rooftop becomes an opportunity to create sustainable design as a pluralist space that carries layers of meaning, living, historical, experiential, ecological, cultural, material etc. In the first instance the living roof creates a new microhabitat for Auckland public space by restaging the original flora of the volcanic summits of the Auckland isthmus. This landscape intervention redefines the Museum as a place not so much preoccupied with its interior, but wide open to its geographic position as part of a vast volcanic field on the edge of the watery tableau of the Auckland Isthmus. The original summit of The Domain holds special status in its up close intimacy to the harbour and Rangitoto.

As well as a new microhabitat the living roof provides an eye back to the city; to the various architectural styles, phases and surfaces of Auckland’s built space, to the circulatory streaming of roads and motorways amid lush sub-tropical vegetation, and the harbour beyond as living panorama. The new summit is more than geography however, it’s also a museological exterior, recreated 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.

The design brief for the paper worth 50% of the total assessment will require students to participate in a group design project that opens the roof-top of Auckland Museum from a range of different architectural extensions, including the goal of reducing the overall carbon footprint of the building through a number of potential interventions, including but not limited to:

  • a mix of extensive and intensive living roof surfaces,
  • an integration of energy microgeneration via wind harnessing and photovoltaic panels,
  • an educational public space that extends the idea of the building as a living biological system

  • Students need to consider the heritage values of the building and its primary iconic status within the Auckland urban landscape.
    This is a collaborative group design process, and students will be required to produce a mix of working drawings, concepts and a final design report. The group will also be working in collaboration with Graham Cleary of Natural Habitats, Zoe Zimmerman of Living Roofs and other experts for landscape architectural expertise specialising in installation of greenroofs and walls.

    Check out the Auckland Museum Rooftop Gallery here


    For our design we have created a strategy of layers that facilitate the students to work synergistically across the open system of the design rather than in silos. The design draws upon a mix of metaphors that reflect a conceptual approach to sustainable design, rather than a purely technical design exercise. We have included a metaphor for cultural infrastructure and another that explores urban attraction as a dynamic organisational concept rather than the marketing idea a tourist destination. The first three metaphors are taken from Louis Kahn’s energy-efficient building design that he realised for the Richards Medical Laboratory. The suite of metaphors reflect the dynamical social/cultural aspects of our design strategy, and also address sustainability at the urban scale. Each design layer is constantly transforming other design layers as the process unfolds. Each metaphor has been assigned to a group of three students who researched an international exemplary model of Museum whose design strategy has integrated ecological and sustainable principles into its architectural envelope, as well as redefining and updating its brand in accordance with the changing condition.

    Metaphor 1: A building as a natural light diffuser /heat exchanger
    Group One – Yusef, Theresa and Alexander – March 23rd (California Academy of Sciences)

    Metaphor 2: A building as a creator of micro-climates and integrated biological system.
    Group Two – Andy, Mona and Joo Eun – March 30th Metaphor: (California Academy of Sciences)

    Metaphor 3: A building as a functional part of its environment.
    Group Three – Lucy, Melissa and Philippa – April 27th (Strata)

    Metaphor 4: A building as an attractor of flow
    Group Four – Lisa, Abdul, Barry – May 4th: (Marina Barrage, Singapore)

    Metaphor 5: A building as cultural infrastructure
    Sam, Zoe and Michael – May 11th (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)

    The following projects present as design resources for the group design project.

    Marina Barrage Singapore

    Museum of the Earth New York

    Natural History Museum of Utah

    Artscience Museum In Singapore / Safdie Architects

    Ghibli Museum, Tokyo, Japan

    Strata SE1 Integrated wind turbine technology

    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Roof Garden

    Chi Chu Art Museum

    California Academy of Sciences


    Auckland Museum Sketchup file
    Auckland Museum Sketchup file2

    Please see Week 2 reading here Geddes Spiral Staircase
    Draft 0.1 Auckland Museum Waste Audit Report 2011
    Greenroof presentation

    Class Map 2012

    The international urban matrix of the collective lived experience with Auckland at the centre….

    SITE VISIT WEEK 2                                                                   

    Week Five will be held in the Level Three Exhibition Space:
    Group Two will be presenting on green roof design, followed by a design forum group discussion in relation to the Museum Design project with Graham Cleary from Natural Habitats and Karl Satchell, Sustainability Engineer from Auckland Museum.

    The focus areas for discussion will be: establishing the loading capacity and overall meterage of the roof design: extensive versus intensive space; issues of social space versus green space and ideas for integration; the potential greening of the dome roof; water reticulation and design mitigation of pooling effects in current profile, and biodiversity.

    Week 5: Great design forum today on microclimate.

    Thanks to Karl, Paul and Graham for great input and feedback.

    Here’s the presentation in full and some preliminary sketch ideas from Group 2’s presentation on Microclimate – Andy Lockyer, Mona Ibrahim and Joo Eun Kim.

    Group 2 Microclimate

    Week 9 – Design Forum in the Auditorium at Auckland Museum with Peter Connolly and students of landscape architecture from Unitec

    Two readings – Landscape as Urbanism – Charles Waldheim – available as e-resource on voyager and short loan.
    Embracing Openness: Making Landscape Urbanism Landscape Architectural: Part 1

    “This is a condition of openness, of being in the open system that the world is, and of the ever present connection to the connectivity of the world that is this open system. It is this connectivity itself that does things. This is an affirmation that the possibility of the world is to be constructed from within this world, and of how such an open system, being nothing like the one-dimensional systems of systems theory, ‘self-organises’.” Peter Connolly


    The Zeekracht Masterplan diagrammatic scheme is a working example of a system’s analysis broken down into layers.

    The following diagrams represent the five groups preliminary understandings of their system analysis according to their particular metaphor.

    The building as a microclimate

    The building as an attractor of flow

    The building as a functional part of its environment – harvesting wind

    The building as cultural infrastructure including an outlook tower and education spaces.

    Helical Wind Turbine


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