Airport terminal smashes pumpkin reputation

Wellington Airport says it has received positive feedback from the first members of the public to see inside its controversial international terminal.

Dubbed "The Rock" and likened to a pair of pumpkins because of its shape and copper plating, the new terminal is the final stage of a $60 million development that began in 2006.

It will be opened today by Prime Minister John Key.

READY TO ROCK: Inside Wellington airport's new international terminal, dubbed 'The Rock', which will be opened on Wednesday.
READY TO ROCK: Inside Wellington airport's new international terminal, dubbed 'The Rock', which will be opened on Wednesday.

Wellington International Airport chief executive Steve Fitzgerald said the "edgy" new building allowed the airport to process 1000 international passengers an hour instead of the current 500. Airport traffic was expected to double by 2030.

"It prepares us exceptionally well for the [Rugby] World Cup and then the passenger growth that we expect through the next 20 years."

Though the building was criticised by architects when plans were first unveiled, feedback had so far been positive, he said.

The first passengers who went through yesterday had congregated in The Rock, which was "a great first impression".

"People are obviously attracted to the feel of the new bits."

Architect Nick Barratt-Boyes, of Wellington's Studio Pacific Architecture, which designed The Rock, said the terminal was modelled on Wellington's rugged south coast.

The 1600 square metres of copper on the building's exterior would be left to oxidise and turn blue-green as it weathered in the salty air.

Mr Barratt-Boyes said macrocarpa panelling and glass fissures on the interior provided a nice light. Windows allowed selective views of aircraft on the tarmac and the terminal's "sequence of spaces" allowed passengers to explore the area and people-watch.

The architects were pleasantly surprised by reaction to the terminal.

"We've always known that it's going to be wonderful. It's just you can't really keep saying that until people walk in themselves and look around and go, 'It's great'."

With the airport described by Mr Fitzgerald as having the most intense land use of any airport in the world, engineers and architects outlined the difficulty in constructing the new terminal – which ties together three existing buildings – causing as little disruption to airport operations as possible.

Project manager Garth Palmer of Impact Project Management said building the new terminal set a new benchmark for challenging projects.

"The Rock was arguably one of New Zealand's most complex and challenging construction projects to oversee."

Mike Kerr, regional manager of engineering firm Beca, said the easiest structure to engineer was a simple box.

"By contrast, The Rock's design is about as far from a straight-sided cube as it is possible to get."

The Dominion Post