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Metal, concrete panels and cedar cladding all combine as a multi-faceted skin for the new Te Ara o Mauao facility

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A new addition to Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology's Windermere campus delivers Creative Arts and Applied Technology learning facilities in a modern, flexible setting

Metal, concrete panels and cedar cladding all combine as a multi-faceted skin for the new Te Ara o Mauao facility

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Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology was born out of the merger of two institutions – Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Waiariki Institute of Technology. The two combined in 2016 to better meet the region's education needs, with the resulting new institute spread over five main campuses – Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga, Tokoroa, and Whakatane. Te Ara o Mauao facility, designed by Chow Hill Architects, is a recent addition to Tauranga's Windermere campus and forms part of a wider Creative Arts and Applied Technology Precinct.

The facility is comprised of 3500m2 of modern, interdisciplinary tertiary learning space dedicated to Art & Design, Music & Radio, Applied and General Learning Technologies for around 700 students.

The clean-lined, multi-faceted building has a strong presence on the campus, and is clad in long-life, low-maintenance materials that accentuate its dynamic architecture. These include concrete panelling with rough sawn patterning, Dimond Colorsteel Endura profile metal cladding and an external steel coating system.

Project architect Jane Hill says the concept for the building's look was to an extent an unwrapping, with the solid louvres signalling the entrance and showing through to the inner cedar cladding.

"These were practical choices, too," Hill says. "The concrete panels provided acoustic mass for the music spaces behind, while the cedar acts to both soften and connect to the look of the concrete. These materials also continue into the interior to draw you into the building."

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The concept of a collaborative urban laneway or atrium underpinned the design of both the building form and interior spaces.

"The primary building form and mass was kept as simple as possible to allow for the range of flexible learning and social spaces required. Essentially, the design is made up of two large north and south buildings linked via the central atrium."

The facility's versatile learning and social environments connect across this central, three-storey atrium or Learning Laneway (Nga Ara).

"As the social hub of the building, the design and fit-out of the laneway focused on creating exciting, dynamic spaces through the use of quality, durable materials that also reflected a sense of warmth and welcome," says Hill. "At the same time they had to be neutral enough to allow the atrium to act as an active canvas for students' work."

Toi Ohomai's ambition was also for the building to depict the cultural narrative of the campus like a watermark. This included a Maori concept of learning and building knowledge as a progression towards the light – an idea reflected in the naturally lit atrium and even through the patterning on the carpet which evokes the sense of patches of sunlight.

"This conceptual narrative informed a range of design decisions, including giving design priority to the main feature stair – the centre of the students' personal learning journey – as well as the choice of carpet patterning, floor tiling, the glazing graphics and selection of furniture fabrics.

"Te Ara o Mauao represents significant change for Toi Ohomai, moving the Windermere Campus away from siloed prefab classrooms towards contemporary, project-based learning environments," says the project architect.

"This dynamic learning facility acts as a transitional stepping stone, promoting wider transformation in learning and delivery across other faculties and the organisation as a whole."

First published date: 20 September 2017

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