The prognosis for Wellington airport's redesign appears terminal after feedback on the proposal labelled it hideous.
But lead architect and project spokesman Nick Barratt-Boyes has defended his design, and said it encompasses the theatrical spirit of the airport - like when a massive effigy of Lord of the Rings character Gollum was placed at the airport for the film's world premiere of The Return of the King in 2003.
The $39 million project, designed by Studio Pacific Architecture and Warren and Mahoney, was touted as becoming "New Zealand's newest iconic building", but has instead become the subject of ridicule.
Mr Barratt-Boyes said the artist's impression - highlighted by the vivid orange colour that prompted comparisons with pumpkins - was not the colour they anticipated for the structure, and agreed that the public could have been put off by it.
"We're not using shiny new copper - it's all pre-weathered and will look a bit crusty.
"It will also oxidise more and change over time."
MP Peter Dunne said he liked Wellington's reputation as the edgy creative capital of New Zealand, but edginess should not mean silliness.
"If Wellingtonians got offended by other New Zealanders describing the stadium as a cake tin, they'll be even less impressed by the nicknames that are already floating around for the new terminal, which seem to focus largely on bovine residue."
Mr Dunne said a couple of "pumpkins" slowly turning green did not reflect the southern coastline.
But Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast countered the negative backlash.
"I don't think they are pumpkins, I think they look like rocks."
People will either love or hate it, "but they'll talk about it and they'll come and see it".
Being distinctive, rather than benign, was a key attribute to the design, Ms Prendergast said.
Mr Barratt-Boyes said the inspiration of a rock was to counterpoint the trend with overseas terminals that have a lot of glass and focus on flight.
"It's a haven; This is a secure place, so that before you go on your flight as an experience, you're anchored in the ground."
While the images showed two "rocks", the design in fact hosts three, with a smaller one tucked behind the larger ones.
Almost half of the respondents to a poll on dompost.co.nz believed the design was "hideous, truly hideous" while 40 per cent said it was "ripe for comedy parody" or suspected it may be a prank.
Less than 3 per cent believed it encapsulated Wellington perfectly or was visually striking.
Ten per cent thought the building was innovative and potentially iconic.
An e-mail comparing the "pumpkin" design to a piece of copper sheeting from the roof of a United States church blown off during Hurricane Wilma in 2005 circulated inboxes yesterday.
- The Dominion Post