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Landscape at Auckland International Airport wins US firm architecture award


US firm Surfacedesign has won an award for its landscape architecture and urban planning for Auckland International Airport in New Zealand.

“Because 75% of New Zealand’s visitors land in Auckland, airport management wanted to highlight the country’s historic land-use practices at and around the terminal,” says the San Francisco based company’s co-founding partner and Auckland project lead, James Lord.

“Our ecological landscape design is culturally rooted, informed by New Zealand’s centuries-old agrarian traditions from its indigenous Maori settlers and European immigrants in the 1800s.”

According to Surfacedesign, its bold landscape treatment purposely makes a lasting impression from both air and ground.

The firm’s design incorporates large geometric patterns inspired by sacred Maori stone fields (mounded-rock terraces that provided protection against weather and intruders), herringbone hedgerows planted by New Zealand’s European immigrants, abstracted shapes referencing Auckland’s natural volcanic and coastal topography, and ‘V’ patterns found in bird flight (significant in Maori culture) and runway chevrons.

The overall plan, it says, cohesively connects existing green spaces and creates additional airport-adjacent recreational opportunities— including a mountain-bike park and 45 acres (18 hectares) of new open space.

Above and beyond references to New Zealand’s rich agrarian history, the landscape design fulfils the airport’s sustainability goals.

To re-purpose excavated dirt on site instead of trucking it to a landfill, Surfacedesign animated the previously flat Oruarangi Creek Public Open Space with mounds patterned after abstracted seashells.

Stormwater remediation is another priority.  Run-off into Oruarangi Creek and Manukau Harbour follows the traditional Maori natural filtration philosophy that water should always pass through rocks before entering a larger body.

The project’s primary stormwater remediation pond, at the Auckland Airport Sculpture Park and Walk across from AKL’s retail district, combines ecological intervention and artistic amenity.

A corridor of trees lures birds from the runway to the pond; lowland edge plants encourage additional wildlife habitation.  Planned green infrastructure at AKL’s terminal plaza will include permeable gardens that naturally filter stormwater.

All hardscape materials and plantings are sourced locally, further minimising the project’s carbon footprint.

The impressive landscaping work at the airport has been recognised by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, which has presented it with a 2020 American Architecture Award.

• All images courtesy of blake marvin | blakemarvin@gmail.com

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