16 Nov 23

Te Pae receives top honour for Public Architecture at NZIA awards

Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre has received a New Zealand Institute of Architects’ (Te Kāhui Whaihanga) national award in the category of Public Architecture.

Held annually, this awards program recognises the best architecture produced in New Zealand within a given year, with 2023 recognising 31 projects across 12 categories.

All projects celebrated in the national awards program have been recognised at local branch level before being shortlisted by the national awards jury, which appraises each project during a nationwide jury tour earlier in the year. 

Designed by Woods Bagot in association with Warren and Mahoney, Te Pae received the award for ‘Public Architecture’. This category recognises the project with the greatest civic contribution, taking into account the building’s performance, consistency, spatial quality, structure, narrative, and user satisfaction.  

The jury praised the project for its strong, warm timber interior and the clever management of people flow in the spaces, deeming it a “very successful piece of civic architecture”.

Photography: Dennis Radermacher

“A significant part of Christchurch’s recovery and redevelopment after the 2011 earthquake, this building is designed to integrate with the city’s new urban sensibility,” the awards jury said. “It celebrates the region’s pre-colonial and multicultural heritage and provides a strong cultural presence for local Ngāi Tahu/Ngai Tuahuriri.

“The project stands out for its focus on community building, rather than on being just a ‘big box’ convention centre,” the jury citation continues. “The design faced several constraints, notably the complex façade and seismic loading, but these were overcome through innovative and collaborative efforts.”

The award was presented at the gala evening held at the St James Theatre in Wellington on Thursday, 16 November. Woods Bagot Director and project leader Bruno Mendes said the national award is a great honour and achievement for the project team and its collaborators.

“We strived for an architecture that relates to place, geographically and culturally, to create a civic landmark that would resonate with the people of Christchurch,” says Mendes. “This award for Public Architecture demonstrates the merit of meaningful cultural engagement with the local iwi, Ngāi Tahu.” 

Photography: Dennis Radermacher

Engaging in a storied and sensitive response to place, the fluid facade is made from nearly 43,000 tiles in an ornate herringbone arrangement. With each tile individually numbered and placed, the varied tones and chevron pattern were inspired by the Aoraki panel — a handwoven community artwork that references Ngāi Tahu as tangata whenua (people of the land).

The interplay of the fluid façade and glazed windows is inspired by the braided rivers of Christchurch – a unique geographical feature endemic to the Canterbury Plains – creating a visual narrative that defines the building entryways and frames its outlooks, oriented to face over Ōtākaro / Avon River.   

Completed in 2022, the 28,000-square-metre convention centre embodies a cornerstone project in Christchurch’s regeneration following the 2011 earthquakes.

“It’s a point of pride for the region and its residents, with an architectural narrative that connects deply with place,” says Rau Paenga’s Te Pae General Manager Kirstie McNulty. “Woods Bagot, Warren and Mahoney, and Matapopore have made a significant contribution to Christchurch with this facility. With over 400 events and 160,000 delegates hosted to date, Te Pae stands as a globally competitive venue, leaving visitors with a lasting impression of Christchurch culture and community.”

The 2023 NZIA awards jury included Dave Strachan (Strachan Group Architects), guest international judge Clare Cousins (Clare Cousins Architects), Sally Ogle (Patchwork Architecture), Ewan Brown (Tennent Brown Architects). 


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Isla Sutherland
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