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Iconic Maori images of voyaging and the spreading branches of the pohutukawa are all called to mind by the soaring Pou Manawa structure at Auckland Airport

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During a recent major upgrade of Auckland International Airport, it was felt that the new airside retail area needed an evocative centrepiece. The element had to contribute to a quality-of-space environment that would encourage travellers to sit, appreciate and linger, as well as shop. Concepts of sitting under a shady tree, relating stories, and a warm sense of belonging, all came together in the Pou Manawa fabric sculpture.

Resembling the leafy spread of a pohutukawa tree, the piece has a 4m-high trunk designed by Ignite Architects, with Jeremy Whelan as project architect. The canopy reaches to 9m and was developed by Fabric Structure Systems using a Swiss architectural fabric called Sefar – chosen for its strength and as a screen for projected images.

"Pou refers to an upright point of reference, in this case a tree, while manawa means heart, or the seat of one's affections – both apt references for those leaving our shores," says Whelan. "Washed with brilliant LED lighting, Pou Manawa is covered with images that float a full 360˚ around it. They are cast by 24 projectors set in the steel truss support ring suspended from the ceiling."

The intricate designs, created by Kingi Gilbert, depict New Zealand carvings that relate to travel, flight and hospitality. These are accompanied by taonga puoro or traditional Maori music.

Auckland International Airport's general manager of retail and commercial Adrian Littlewood says Pou Manawa offers a unique experience that reflects the culture of Aotearoa in an airport environment.

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First published date: 09 April 2011

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Credit List

Location Pou Manawa, Auckland International Airport Architect Jeremy Whelan, Ignite Architects, in collaboration with Adrian Nancekivell, AND Ltd
Support structure Wade Design Engineers Pou
Manawa construction Fabric Structure Systems
Lighting design Beca
Internal lighting Kenderdine, The Green Room
Story Charles Moxham
Photography Jamie Cobeldick