Awards Focus: Auckland International Airport

LAM is highlighting student and professional winners from the 2021 ASLA Awards by asking designers to share an outtake that tells an important part of their project’s narrative.


Auckland International Airport

Surfacedesign, Inc.

General Design Honor Award

Image courtesy Surfacedesign, Inc.

“Surfacedesign gathered and reused stones from the fields around the airport, reshaping them into mounds and landforms along the roads. These stones figure prominently in Māori culture and agriculture. When the Māori first arrived in New Zealand they noticed that these dark stones, ancient lava, absorbed the sun’s heat. Having come from tropical Polynesia in large canoes, their food staple was kumara, or sweet potato. In New Zealand’s colder climate it was a survival mechanism to plant the potatoes with the warm rocks, understanding that the stones would release their heat at night and keep the plants alive.”

   —James Lord, FASLA, Surfacedesign, Inc.


About Auckland International Airport:

Surfacedesign’s Auckland International Airport landscape is a graphic entry procession that is legible from the air as well as the ground. The design encompasses Indigenous as well as European design motifs that give airport visitors a primer on the landscapes and cultural histories of New Zealand. The design approach to the airport puts multiple mobilities in the forefront, loosely tracing the road to the airport but also including trails for walking and biking. Crescent-shaped rock berms of native stone define the topography with elemental calligraphy. These are references to Māori stonefields, stone-walled gardens that created warmer microclimates that could lengthen the island’s short, temperate growing seasons, which were cooler than the Polynesian climates of their origins. These meditative landforms are alternately intersected by strict, rectilinear hedgerows, an indelible part of European colonization of New Zealand, some of which are clipped at the corner, creating planting rows that resemble the turbine blades of a jet engine. Because international travelers often arrive at night, installations project colored lights onto the stonefield rocks, setting them ablaze with shades reminiscent of native waterfalls and volcanoes, landscape hallmarks of this singular place.

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