Embracing and showcasing Rotorua's unique sense of place

With it’s geothermal activity and strong Maori culture Rotorua has a unique identity within New Zealand. So it was important that was reflected in the open spaces around the new library and children’s health hub set in Jean Batten square.

“Our brief was very clear,” says Leigh Wilson, of Bespoke Landscape Architects. “It was all about creating an environment that facilitates social interaction and exchange; and seeking innovative ways of developing a prominent urban park; to complement health, library and visitor centre services.”


To achieve this, design focuses on creating a range of flexible open spaces and connections between key destinations, entrances and activities. Wilson says that the designs acknowledge the fact that the square is set to become a very busy ‘hub’ of activity.


In addition to ensuring an appropriate level of functionality, the Hub and associated open spaces will be used by a range of locals, national and international tourists. Wilson says this presented a significant opportunity to “embrace and showcase the area’s unique sense of place and culture”, with several cultural, social and geomorphological themes to draw inspiration from.


Local cultural and geomorphological themes are recognised in the design including sculptural playspace elements like the tundra landscape maze, prism climbing cube, geothermal pipe slide sculptures and “mud pool” trampolines.

Supported by sculptural pipe structures, the ‘prism’ is made up of multiple suspended ropes that offer both sculptural and play value. Wilson says inspiration for the structure was taken from the fine mist emanating from geysers, mud pool activity and fog on Lake Rotorua, with lighting showcasing prism colours often seen in mist vapour.


“Other key elements include sculptural geothermal pipe features that reference transfer of geothermal energy and double as pipe slides; with interactive resonating chimes, drums and talking tubes providing opportunities for social exchange that further reinforce geothermal and cultural design influences,” Wilson explains.

He says interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. Locals may interpret the design in a different way to national and international visitors. “For this reason we feel it is important that interventions (design) allude to cultural influences, narratives and natural context, but show restraint when it comes to literal interpretations of these.”


“We are very pleased with overall project outcomes and the journey with key stakeholders to realise this innovative approach to embracing community wellbeing,” says Wilson. “We also believe the project showcases a microcosm of iconic landscapes and cultural values fundamental to achieving Rotorua’s vision of revitalisation”.