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The Vertical Stage


Gregory Mann / Student

12. Student design award

The Vertical Stage, a visionary project emerges as a response to an extreme density future scenario. With its towering height of 80 meters and situated on a narrow 15m x 45m site, this project challenges the traditional performer-audience relationship. By embracing a novel approach, the tiered stage confronts viewers from every row, creating an immersive experience for all.

Timber, a material chosen for its availability, versatility, and environmental friendliness, takes centre stage in this design. The decision to utilize timber was driven by its numerous benefits, including its lightweight nature, ease of sourcing in New Zealand, and the opportunity to exploit its structural and aesthetic applications.

To effectively harness the full potential of timber, the project exploits its tensile strength by introducing subtle bends into each piece of wood. This innovative approach not only enhances the structural integrity of the design but also creates visually captivating spaces that engage the audience.

The decision-making process leading to the use of timber involved a comprehensive comparison of various materials using the LCA Quick computer program. This analysis focused on offsetting the carbon produced throughout the building's entire lifecycle. Timber emerged as a clear winner, aligning with the project's goal of being carbon negative.

The use of timber adds value to the project in multiple ways. From a construction standpoint, timber's forgiving nature and lightweight properties simplify the building process. Furthermore, the warmth and natural variations in grain size and direction inherent in timber contribute to the building's inviting and friendly atmosphere.

While cost benefits may not be measured in monetary terms, the project's emphasis on sustainability and environmental considerations highlights the true value of timber. By minimizing material usage and adopting a "Wood is Good, Trees are better!" approach, the design showcases timber's potential to reduce the environmental impact of construction.

Considering the future timeline of the project, the specific timber species for various applications have not been finalized. However, if the building were to be constructed today, locally sourced and sustainable timber, such as Radiata Pine, would be the most viable option. The decision process would consider both cost and availability, ensuring the project aligns with the sustainable principles of the future.

Collaboration with timber experts from Scion, architects teaching at UoA, and consulting with an engineer has enriched the project. Drawing from their expertise, the design embraces innovative and unconventional uses of timber. The bending and weaving of timber members stand out as distinctive features, pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally expected from the material.

The Vertical Stage draws inspiration from drawings of the "Hakari Stage," traditional celebratory temporary structures used by the Maori for large gatherings. These design principles serve as the guiding light, influencing almost every decision made throughout the project. By embracing timber's potential, the Vertical Stage presents an awe-inspiring, sustainable, and community-centred space for Kapa Haka performances, showcasing innovation in timber and addressing relevant building sector issues across New Zealand.