Key Points:

Auckland's new-look museum may resemble a collapsed souffle to some but, from the inside, its almost 360-degree views from the top floor are breathtaking.

Contractors are working non-stop to finish the grand atrium known as "the dome" at the southern end of the museum for its opening next month.

Museum director Rodney Wilson guided a tour of the development - still a busy construction site echoing with jack hammers and full of building dust - yesterday, saying some people had criticised the exterior of the copper-and-glass dome, which crowns a rough-sawn, four-storey timber bowl concealed behind the existing museum facade, as resembling a "collapsed souffle".

But he praised its undulating lines, which echoed the volcanic landscape and hills around Auckland, and had proven an "unexpected delight".

The top floor with its panoramic view will be used as a premium event centre that can host as many as 700 guests.

The unusual ceiling of individually formed fibrous plasterboards created a feeling as if the cream-coloured belly of a giant stingray was overhead, with its rippling wings hovering over the distinctive city skyline.

Dr Wilson said resource consents had meant the dome could not be built higher than the highest point of the original building, which had proven an aesthetic challenge without "historical justification". But a bonus of the final design meant it allowed access to roof decks with views to the city and harbour.

This final stage of a 12-year long museum refurbishment provides a second public entrance, a two-storey underground carpark, educational amenities, a 200-seat auditorium and vast storage space for the museum collections, many of which are held off-site.

It extends the museum's floor area by 60 per cent, creating seven floors in what had been empty space.

Dr Wilson said the "contemporary and classical" wooden bowl structure inside the dome, which was suspended from the roof top, would create a "hanging museum of Auckland".

For its size and kind, the Auckland Museum would be as good as any, if not better than most, of other museums in the world.