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Competition: Wellington Creative Exhibition Centre

An open international ideas contest has been launched for a new cultural venue in Oriental Bay, Wellington (Deadline: 30 October)

Open to young architects under 40 years old, students and multidisciplinary teams, the anonymous single-stage competition seeks innovative proposals for a new creative exhibition centre overlooking Oriental Bay.

The call for concepts focuses on a 530m² site on Oriental Parade, formerly known as the Band Rotunda, which once featured a 19th-century bathing pavilion but was later converted into an Art Deco restaurant which closed following earthquake damage two years ago.

The competition site in Oriental Bay, Wellington

The competition site in Oriental Bay, Wellington

The competition site in Oriental Bay, Wellington

According to the brief: ‘This is a single stage ideas competition with the aim of identifying the best proposal for a Creative Exhibition Centre in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. We invite you to create innovative solutions to tackle the challenges presented.

‘The winning design will demonstrate a high degree of expression and creativity in fulfilling the program requirements, in accordance with the specific design guidelines. All proposals will be reviewed by an international jury. Creative and innovative proposals both for the design of the new structure and for the use of the site are encouraged.’

Located on the south-western tip of North Island, Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and its second largest urban area with more than 400,000 residents. Oriental Bay is a wealthy suburb of Wellington situated next door to the central business district.

The latest competition focuses on creating a new cultural venue on the site of an existing disused restaurant known as the Band Rotund. The prominent plot overlooking Oriental Bay’s popular sandy beach has been disused following earthquake damage to the structure in 2016.

The competition site in Oriental Bay, Wellington

The competition site in Oriental Bay, Wellington

The competition site in Oriental Bay, Wellington

Proposals for the new structure must be no higher than 10 metres above street level and include a cultural exhibition space, a community room, toilets and a public open area. Submissions should include two A1-sized display boards featuring sketches, renderings, plans, sections, elevations with all descriptions written in English.

Judges include Oriental Bay Residents Association president Andy Thomson, University of Auckland professor Diane Brand, AECOM associate director Harris Maragkos, and Pamela Bell chief executive of Prefab New Zealand.

The overall winner, to be announced 15 November, will receive a $1,500 NZD prize while a second prize of $1,000 NZD, third prize of $500 NZD and five honourable mentions will also be announced.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 5pm local time on 30 October.


Early bird registration until 30 August: $20
Standard registration until 30 October: $30

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Minh Nguyen and Thu Phuong Truong

The competition organisers and founders of ADEDU discuss their ambitions for the competition

Minh Nguyen and Thu Phuong Truong

Minh Nguyen and Thu Phuong Truong

Minh Nguyen and Thu Phuong Truong

Why are you holding an international competition for a new creative exhibition centre on Wellington’s waterfront?

Minh Nguyen Phuong and I co-founded ADEDU association in 2016 with two missions. Our first mission is to promote architecture students and young professionals. Our second mission is to nurture a value-based competition among architectural firms in New Zealand. The Oriental Bay Pavilion competition is just a start of the journey.

I would like to tell you a bit more about New Zealand’s architectural scene which might answer your question. Unlike countries in Western Europe or North America, we do not have many competitions for both students and professionals here. As a result, for many years, architecture students have been working on fully academic and abstract school projects.

Most of them have spent so much time on creating futuristic building forms. Through this competition, we just want to get students to engage in a real-world challenge to redesign the Band Rotunda at Oriental Bay in Wellington. This building is a public building owned by the Wellington City Council, but has been left empty since the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. If this building was located in Western Europe, for example, there would be competitions to select the best design or solution to redevelop it.

Unfortunately, in New Zealand, projects using public money have been often commissioned by the government to big local firms. Therefore, firms who have developed and maintained a good relationship with government are likely to be selected. This is what I call relationship-based competition among architectural practices. I do not think that many architects, especially the young and also architecture-lovers are happy with this setting. I understand that last year, Peter Jackson publicly confirmed that he no longer wanted to sponsor the construction of a local museum as he felt unhappy about how the project was granted and developed in that mentioned way.

And this is exactly what we want to change with ADEDU through organising architecture competitions in New Zealand. We want to break that ‘relationship-based’ competition and nurture a new culture in which design solution will be selected based on its value or quality. So to say, a value-based competition culture is the second mission of our association.

What is your vision for how the new cultural venue?

Minh Nguyen We have met relevant staffs from the Wellington City Council and were told that the new building should include public facilities such as community room, accessible public area and public toilets. The remaining area could be used for other functions such as exhibition and working areas. We have met Andrew Thomson, the president of Oriental Bay Residents Association and invited him to be a judge for the competition. We understand that the majority of local residents are older people who want to have a place to meet. The site is also a popular public venue for all Wellingtonians, especially in summer. Hence, the design, in my opinion, should be inclusive. This means that it should address the needs of not only working-aged people, but also other groups of users such as children, teenagers, and the elderly.

The site area is about 500m², and it also has a height limit of less than 10m. In addition, designers should also concern about the rise of the sea levels. As this is an architecture idea competition, we are looking for not only new form, but also new function for the site. We as a whole are moving towards a new kind of society, and a new kind of economy where ideas and innovation occur more often where people meet and talk to each other rather in a lab setting. And we hope that a little pavilion on Oriental Bay could be one of such places in Wellington.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Thu Phuong Truong We have set an age limit of less than 40 years old for participants with the hope of creating a fair playground and competition. However, participants are welcome to seek advice/guidance from senior architects and/or academics. At the moment, we know that Professor Daniel Brown at Victoria University of Wellington has used this competition for his fourth-year design studio. Professor Diane Brand and Associate Professor Gu Kai have also promoted this competition to architecture students at the University of Auckland.

The competition has been posted on several international websites. Up to now we currently have a good number of participants both inside and outside New Zealand. The deadline for submission is 30 October 2018 and winners will be announced on 15 November 2018.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Thu Phuong Truong Wellington City Council has recently confirmed that they do not have the budget to redevelop the site and given the constraints of the site, no individual profit-driven developer would be interested in purchasing the site. Crowdfunding could be a potential financial solution for it. We believe that this architecture competition will stimulate public debate on how we should design, build and perhaps co-own public buildings.

Are there any other waterfront exhibition venue projects you have been impressed by?

Minh Nguyen I guess an open structure that promotes social interaction would be suitable for the site. An open structure that invites people to come in and stay. A kind of structure that supports social interaction and thus nurturing the process of sharing ideas and forming new ideas is something I hope to get from good architecture. Regarding exhibition venue projects in the past, I personally like the Nordic Pavilion in Venice designed by Sverre Fehn in the 1960s. I also like the Denmark Pavilion in the Shanghai Expo 2010, a building full of joy and exploration, designed by Bjarke Ingels.