A building in the shape of a boat. A new museum to celebrate the "legends" of New Zealand history. A unique architectural monument. A magnet for visitors and a place to explore our own history. A brand-new museum proposal for the Auckland waterfront has been revealed today, exclusively to the Weekend Herald.
The LegendNZ Centre, which has no official status, has the look of a waka, although its creator, Lindsay Mackie of the architectural firm Archimedia, calls it a "universal vessel".
"It could apply to any kind of boat," he says, " including a waka huia, a canoe, a yacht or a ship." But he stresses that while its meaning is " in the eye of the beholder", he wants it to be recognisably unique to New Zealand.
The centre is proposed for the northern end of Wynyard Point, where it would become a "world-class multimedia museum and exhibition centre which celebrates the achievements of our greatest New Zealanders".
• Premium - Simon Wilson: Stadium or museum for the Auckland waterfront - or both?
• Simon Wilson's 6 things to fix Auckland: Build a magnificent Museum of the Sea
• Opponents finally sink plan to build waterfront museum
• Sound the cannons and celebrate Maritime tradition
The man who originally came up with the idea, Auckland environmental consultant Warwick Pascoe, says it would house what he calls "Fields of Endeavour".
That includes the "Kiwi Edventure", celebrating the life and works of Sir Edmund Hillary. America's Cup campaigns and stories about "our greatest All Blacks", soldiers, aviators, filmmakers, scientists and artists are also proposed (see panel).
Archimedia has conceived the building as an enormous wooden structure suspended above the ground, containing exhibition and education spaces, encased in glass, with a giant mast-like "mooring post" at one end and an anchor stone at the other.
Mackie and Pascoe believe it evokes "the metaphorical Māori creation myth, the separation of Ranginui (Sky Father/Roofworks) and Papatūānuku (Earth Mother/ground plane)".
The building has five floors, including basement car parks, ground level arrival and restaurant, and three levels for exhibitions, offices and a large auditorium for performances, lectures and conferences.
It's planned to create a total floor area of 40,000 square metres, of which over 27,000sq m would be public space. That makes it smaller than Te Papa in Wellington, which has 35,000sq m of public exhibition space, but nearly three times the size of the Auckland Art Gallery.
Auckland Council's planning committee chairman Chris Darby says the proposal "excites the senses and ignites imagination". He believes Auckland has not had a "truly great" new public building that "anchors" us since the Auckland War Memorial Museum opened in the Domain in 1929.
Darby likes the positioning of LegendNZ on Wynyard Point and says it has the potential to help the city with its "climate-resilient future".
"The structure could form the core of a micro-grid renewable energy system for the Wynyard Quarter, demonstrate water efficiency and be surrounded by a park of green and a park of blue. The latter could be the opportunity to re-create reef and rock structures that bring back marine life long lost. I'm suggesting we could develop this idea into something well beyond the skeleton of the building."
But, he says, "mana whenua play a key role and I'm keen to hear their contributions".
Mayor Phil Goff has been advised of the proposal but his office says he has not yet seen it.
The LegendNZ Centre is proposed for part of the "Tank Farm" land on Wynyard Point, currently leased for fuel storage. Those leases will soon expire. The land is owned by Auckland Council, which has a long-term plan to create a 4.5ha "waterfront park" and make the rest of the land available for commercial developments.
But there is no official plan for a new museum or similar public building anywhere on the site.
Wynyard Point is currently being used to prepare challenger bases for the America's Cup campaign next summer. Those sites, along the eastern edge of the peninsula, will remain in place for as long as Team NZ holds the cup. Their future after that has not been decided.
This new proposal is a private initiative. Pascoe and Mackie say they expect to pick up support and develop a team to advance the idea.
Already on board is Bernard Makoare, a design and cultural consultant, but there is no formal iwi input. Ngarimu Blair of Ngāti Whātua, the largest iwi in Tāmaki Makaurau, told the Herald, "There hasn't been any engagement with us".
Pascoe says that's something they know they need to work on.
The LegendNZ Centre is at least the sixth unofficial plan put forward in the last few years.
In 2011 art consultant Hamish Keith chaired a working group that proposed a new Te Papa North museum on the same Wynyard Point site.
There have been two proposals for a tourism/education centre on Queens Wharf: the Kiwa Centre for Contemporary Māori and Pacific Culture, and a Pacific Discovery cultural centre.
A consortium wants to build a sunken stadium, called the Crater, on the ocean bed at the western edge of Bledisloe Wharf. Ngāti Whātua has its own plan for a big new mixed-use precinct called Te Tōangaroa, straddling both sides of Quay St. Archimedia itself has made a similar proposal for the port land.
None of these proposals has been adopted by council, even in an exploratory way.
Meanwhile, the port is building a multi-storey "car-storage facility" on Bledisloe Wharf, and the debate over mooring "dolphins" for supercruisers, proposed for the north end of Queens Wharf, is before the Environment Court and thought unlikely to proceed.
Pascoe and Mackie say they are keen to put their proposal before the mayor and council.
The "Fields of Endeavour"
The LegendNZ Centre proposes to tell the stories of famous New Zealanders, mainly men from the worlds of adventure, sport and warfare. Virtual reality headsets and "3D/4D" theatre experiences would enable visitors to experience historic events for themselves. The proposal lists:
Kiwi Edventure: The story of Sir Edmund Hillary's adventures in Nepal, India and Antarctica. Visitors could climb a mock-up of the Hillary Step to the summit of Mt Everest while wearing a VR headset that makes the journey "a vertigo-inducing reality". You'd then sit in a 3D/4D theatre to travel by tractor to the South Pole and by jet boat up the Ganges River, from the "Ocean to the Sky".
Kiwi's Cup (aka Red Socks Central): The story of New Zealand's involvement in the America's Cup, in which, using a VR headset, you can take the helm.
Kiwi Heaven: The stories of "our greatest All Blacks".
Kiwi Bravehearts: The stories of "our greatest soldiers from the Maori Wars through to Afghanistan, including Charles Upham, Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu and Willie Apiata". Visitors who are "age appropriate" could use VR headsets to "experience the battles".
Kiwis Can Fly!: "The stories of pioneering aviator Richard Pearse and long-distance aviatrix Jean Batten; top WWII fighter ace Group Captain Colin Gray and Battle of Britain commander Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park." VR flight simulator experiences would include flying Pearse's monoplane, taking part in an aerial dog-fight, flying a Skyhawk around Mt Taranaki and landing a Hercules on the sea ice in Antarctica.
Kiwis In Space: Take a simulated trip into space, with Rocket Lab.
Kiwi Movie Magic: How about touring Rivendell with Elrond and exploring Middle Earth on the back of an eagle?
Kiwis Care: Humanitarian efforts, including Hillary's school and hospital achievements in Nepal and Fred Hollows' work restoring sight in Australia, Asia, Africa and India.
Other exhibits: The stories of famous men and women who have excelled in such fields as medicine, science, business, literature, sports, cinema, music, art, politics, motorcar and motorbike racing.