Auckland Museum Grand Atrium Hero

Auckland War Memorial Museum Grand Atrium: adding a new dimension to one of Auckland’s favourite attractions

The construction of Auckland Museum’s grand atrium was much more than a building addition. It was the culmination of a story that had taken 154 years to tell.

Since moving to its current location in 1929 Auckland War Memorial Museum had seen one addition in the late 1950s, when an administration annexe with a large semi-circular courtyard was added to the southern rear. At Christmas 1999, the first stage of the Museum’s redevelopment was completed; a five-year restoration of its landmark heritage building, introduction of new building services and replacement of 9000m² of natural history, cultural history and war memorial exhibits.

However, this added no new spaces or amenities. A second and final stage was necessary to address fundamental visitor needs, educational amenities, and the safe care and access to the Museum’s leading national collections: the Grand Atrium project was born.


Auckland Museum Trust’s aim:

  • To create more facilities and space in order to offer new levels of service and engagement to Museum visitors.
  • To ensure the Museum’s collections were cared for safely and were accessible. 


What we did:

In 2003 Hawkins was awarded the contract to build "The Dome" - Auckland War Memorial Museum's Stage 2 Grand Atrium development.

The architecturally striking project, which filled the rear southern courtyard of the 1960s addition, raised the quality of the visitor amenities and storage collection space to international standards.

The project created over 9,000m² of space (a 60% increase) over seven levels - two basement levels, ground floor, and four above-ground levels contained in a ‘bowl' structure and topped by a copper and glass dome.

The extension houses a 950m² international quality special exhibitions hall; a new learning centre for children and a 200-seat auditorium for cultural and musical performances, films and lectures; a copper dome topped café; an events centre and garden on the museum's rooftop offering extensive views of Auckland. The project also included the construction of a two-level underground car park building.

The new works fit within the existing museum space and, as it is a heritage building, we made no structural changes to the exterior façade.

We adopted a collaborative approach, working alongside the Museum Trust and their designers to provide construction and budget advice. We were forced to think laterally and develop unconventional and innovative solutions to meet the architectural structural and operational requirements of a museum.


Unique challenges:

  • Large-scale ground retention and excavation works had to be undertaken within the constraints of the original building. Initial machinery access was obtained using one of New Zealand's largest mobile cranes, lifting over the top of the building. Excavation of the two basement levels to a depth of 9m below the existing ground floor, comprising 15,000m3, progressed rapidly with the excavation of a tunnel beneath the existing building, creating truck and machinery access. In situ concrete perimeter walls were constructed utilising a single-sided formwork system designed by Hawkins that allowed for a rapid two-day turnaround per pour.
  • As construction progressed the access tunnel was enlarged by underpinning the existing four storeys of building to create a permanent undercover truck dock. Difficult site and space constraints led to a solution that utilised self-compacting concrete in four large post-tensioned beams, supported on permanent steel-cased concrete columns and piles constructed underneath and outside the existing building to depths of 16m, allowing 4,000m3 of material to be excavated beneath the building.
  • We opted to fix the tower crane directly atop the steel “mega-frame” structure. The towers and trusses that would form part of this needed to be erected using 200T and 300T mobile cranes, which would lift components over and from within the building. By fixing the crane to the “mega-frame” we did not have to tie the tower into the internal façade of the heritage building and were able to fully complete each floor level as construction progressed.
  • Construction of the two-level underground car park, required an additional 20,000m3 of material to be excavated. The close proximity of an underground water reservoir built of unreinforced concrete, which serviced Auckland’s CBD, meant strict constraints were placed on how construction was managed. Ground retention works and a comprehensive monitoring regime were put in place and immediately adjacent to the closest portion of the reservoir a “top down” construction methodology was employed to minimise possible ground movements that could compromise the reservoir integrity.


The outcome:

The project was completed and formally opened in December 2006, bringing to an end more than a decade of continuous development, refurbishment and reconstruction.

Auckland Museum is beloved like no other iconic building. This development not only increases the Museum’s ability to showcase, interpret and celebrate our history, but has added another.