Wanaka Sports and Aquatic Facility

Warren and Mahoney Architects
New Zealand

Wanaka, with a population of 7,000 people, is one of the fastest-growing towns in the southern hemisphere. In 2013, the local council decided to build a new dedicated recreation centre in the heart of the wider metropolitan district. Being central and all under one roof ensures that it becomes a hub of activity, placing wellness at the centre of the local and wider community. A new urban neighbourhood will be constructed around the facility over the next few years.

A notable shift toward wellness in New Zealand has resulted in a need for multi-use sports and recreation spaces. Appealing to this community call, the Wanaka Recreation Centre creates a sense of belonging and encourages participation from all community members with a combination of sports courts and aquatic space under one roof. Community involvement at delivery stages and strategic design has allowed for the sympathetic placement of a facility of Wanaka’s size in this unique landscape of outstanding beauty.

The brief called for an indoor arena spanning two netball courts with seamless flow into associated changing and administration spaces. Another important aspect was the ability to extend the facility as the community grows. This lead to a modular approach. The project aimed to lift visitors’ moods and encourage participation, not only in the final product, but also throughout the project delivery. A low-maintenance timber structure, neutral white colour palette and stainless steel pools maintain a welcoming and calming environment. Community engagement involved public meetings and workshops.

One of the key considerations was ensuring the facility was well orientated both to sun and the prevailing winds making for a pleasurable experience on arrival and encouraging informal chance encounters. International best practice and Sport England planning principles were researched and adapted during the design process to decrease construction costs and increase operational efficiency. Sustainable design was central to the design process with the client commissioning a whole-of-life analysis in the early stages to explore how the community could achieve best value in the long term.

Photography: Sarah Rowlands and Simon Larkin.