Auckland’s cultural landmark Aotea Centre has been transformed following a $67.5m, four-year refurbishment.

The centre is one of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s most versatile performance, event and convention venues in the heart of the city’s theatre district.
The first major revamp for the centre since it opened in 1990, the project was part of Auckland Council’s 10-year $133 million midtown regeneration programme ─ a series of development projects and street upgrades that will significantly revitalise the area.

Mayor Phil Goff says the refurbished Aotea Centre will attract visitors from Auckland, New Zealand and—once the borders reopen—around the world.

“Auckland’s midtown is already a significant cultural precinct, home to the Auckland Town Hall, The Civic, Aotea Square and Auckland Art Gallery,” he says.

“The refurbishment of this premier venue in the heart of our city will add to the area’s vibrancy once the new City Rail Link Aotea Station is complete, and bring tens of thousands of people to the area daily.”

Auckland Unlimited Chief Executive Nick Hill says the centre refurbishment has resulted in a modern, vibrant and versatile venue that can cater for a wide variety of events and experiences.

“This iconic building has a legacy of hosting world-class shows, conventions and events in Auckland for more than three decades. With this redevelopment, we can proudly place Aotea – Te Pokapū Aotea Centre on the global stage, along with the very best Aotearoa has to offer.”

According to programme director Matt Wheeler, delivering a beautiful, fit-for-purpose building for the people of Tāmaki Makaurau was an extremely rewarding for the project team.

“Aotea – Te Pokapū Aotea Centre is such an important landmark. Some of the world’s greatest artists have performed on its stage, including our very own Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The team felt a huge responsibility to ensure this amazing performing arts venue could continue to be a fitting backdrop for the once-in-a-lifetime live experiences that take place there.”

A distinctive new exterior

The centre’s exterior has undergone essential waterproofing and aesthetic upgrades, with new roofing and cladding, a curtain wall and skylight in the main atrium and an upgraded smoke extraction system.

A key feature is the modernisation of the large balcony on the centre’s top level. Additional strengthening and installation of an almost-frameless glass balustrade means visitors can now enjoy extensive views of Aotea Square, while a distinctive fascia ribbon creates a sense of movement and dance along the facade.

Refreshed interior spaces

Inviting floor-to-ceiling glass welcomes visitors into the striking multi-level atrium, creating a light-filled, versatile space. New lighting, floor and wall treatments create a vibrant ambience, with award-winning bilingual wayfinding on all levels.

The refreshed convention wing complements the 2000-seat Kiri Te Kanawa theatre, and the upgraded foyers provides enhanced exhibition space. Refreshed bars and bathrooms, a new box office and new balustrades, and feature lighting complete the internal upgrade, with a modern look that also brings all aspects of the centre up to code compliance.

Nick Hill says enhanced accessibility has been an important goal during the refurbishment: “We have incorporated a range of design improvements to make the centre more accessible for our visitors.”

These include contrasting materials at the top and bottom of stairs and ramps to highlight the change; Braille signage and lighting in the centre of handrails; automatic opening doors to all entrances from Aotea Square and the Civic car park; reconfigured internal ramps for easier access; accessible counters at the bars, box office and cloak room; upgrading the hearing loops within the main foyer and convention spaces; and upgrading all the accessible toilets.
Digital art installation celebrating Te Ao Māori

A large-scale digital art installation by renowned Aotearoa multi-disciplinary artist Lisa Reihana features in the centre’s refreshed foyers. Ihi is one of the country’s most significant contemporary works of Māori art. The work tells the story of Ranginui and Papatūānuku on two 65 sqm screens that can be viewed from three levels.

“Ihi is an important addition to Aotearoa New Zealand’s public art,” says Nick Hill, “and the centre houses many other significant works that are free for the community to come in and enjoy.

“Along with Auckland Town Hall, The Civic and Aotea Square, Aotea Centre is at the heart of so many wonderful cultural and community events and activities for Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. This refurbishment will ensure it remains a safe, accessible and vibrant arts hub for decades to come.

Background information for editors

External Refurbishment

  • The major component of the renewal work is a new exterior to replace aging building components.

Work included:
• Weathertightness
• New external cladding, curtain wall and roofing
• Usable balcony spaces
• A decorative ribbon with lighting
• Upgraded smoke extract system for the foyers
• Stainless steel interlocking plates over the existing stone panels
• Glass balustrades along the balcony

Internal Refurbishment An internal refresh to address the functionality of the foyers and associated areas. Work included:
• New foyers with enhanced exhibition spaces
• A refresh of all the conventions spaces to complement the recently refurbished 2000-seat auditorium
• New lighting, feature lighting, floor and wall treatments
• A new ticket office adjacent to The Terrace café
• Accessible bilingual wayfinding on all levels
• Upgraded bar areas
• New balustrades to meet code compliance
• Removal of internal balcony to open up the foyers
• New main entrance

Timeline - The centre closed for the first six months of the interior works but remained a fully functioning venue for the remainder of the refurbishment. During this time, works were scheduled to accommodate venue bookings.

• Internal Refurbishment Commenced February 2018 and completed October 2019.

• External Refurbishment Commenced February 2018 and completed December 2021.

• Total cost: $67,594,137
• Internal cost: $31,543,671
• External cost: $36,050,466

External Works Team
• Architects: Ignite Architects
• Services: 22 Degrees/ Stephenson & Turner
• Structural: Aurecon
• Façade: Aurecon
• Project Management: Beca
• Quantity Surveyor: Rider Levett Bucknall
• Contractor main works: NZ Strong
• Contractor decorative ribbon: Insol

Internal Works Team
• Architects: Stephenson & Turner
• Services: Stephenson & Turner
• Structural: Aurecon
• Project Management: Beca
• Quantity Surveying: Maltbys
• Contractor: NZ Strong

Award-winning Wayfinding System
The accessible bilingual wayfinding system designed for the refurbished building was a finalist in the Best Awards 2019 and received Honours (the highest award possible) at the Global Design Awards 2020.

Images of the Aotea Centre refurbishment may be found here.