2 Te Whare Nui o Tuteata

Te Whare Nui o Tuteata: SCION Innovation Hub


Irving Smith Architects, RTA Studio & Dunning Thornton Consultants

10. Innovation timber engineering award

Photographed by: 
Patrick Reynolds

Te Whare Nui o Tuteata represents more than 10 years of advancement and sophistication in the way timber structural buildings are not just put together but conceptualised. Thinking harder about what timber is good at and how timber buildings might be better prefabricated and pieced together has resulted in a globally significant scientific demonstration of how we might build tomorrow.

The New Hub acts to reshape and redirect the existing SCION Campus. The renewed campus becomes forward facing, the activity within made public. The Hub building acts as a built interface between the community of Rotorua and the activities of SCION.

Building in Rotorua is complex. Geotechnical and hydrothermal challenges make inground works complex, and the volcanic environment challenges approaches to durability. SCION locates a Diagrid with “fuses” to allow movement in the case of ground deformation. The lighter weight timber superstructure allows a reduced foundation, important in this challenging geotechnical context.

The Diagrid is formed by a series of laminated LVL components, (Diamonds and Pyramids), reduced to six key components to facilitate prefabrication. Specifically designed laminated finger joints, prototyped, and tested before construction enable this design simplification.

The diagrid allows a simpler load path of forces to ground, avoiding forced right angle connections, this in turn allows a 75% reduction in the cross-sectional area of the LVL Diagrid members. Smaller timber members means timber construction is easier to handle, transport and sustainably resource and ultimately change or re-use.

Steelwork connecting the diagrid is minimised by this approach; a simple steel ‘UFP’ acting as a seismic fuse, allows greater resilience and repairability of the structure. The corbelling of the floor on the diagrid allows the movement and creates re-centring.

The diagrid is fully expressed within the central atrium space, modulating the architecture, adding material warmth, and speaking of the close relationship between structural timber, innovative engineering, and architectural expression.

A Hybrid CLT and LVL floor system is used on all levels, including the ground floor, markedly reducing weight. Due attention to acoustics utilises a raised floor system, which incorporates building services reticulation.

Expressive cantilevered timber stairs interconnect levels, and add drama to the central atrium, which is key to this open design concept. At the upper level, ply ceilings describe the DNA of radiata pine, and the stars of Matariki, locating the building in its immediate and wider NZ context.

At entry, folded CLT plates define three peaked portals, one for each of Nga Hapu e Toru. CNC technology is used to carve the applied Glu-Lam panels, that speak to each entry and its iwi.

The building achieves embodied carbon zero at end of construction, without any offsetting of carbon credits. Whole of life carbon usage over the next 60 years is 35% below those of current 2020 RIBA reference building targets.

The building represents a real prototype rather than just a possibility for all future buildings and lays a marker on New Zealand’s journey to be carbon zero by 2050. 
Come walk in our forest.