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Inside He Tohu: The making of a Red Awards winner

When the NZRIA celebrated the best in retail design with the Red Awards this year, He Tohu was one of the spaces honoured. Read on to find out how it picked up the GDM Joinery Excellence Award and the Inzide Commercial Sustainability Award.

By Greenmount Espies | September 25, 2018 | Sponsored Content

He Tohu, ‘the document room’, was designed by Studio Pacific Architecture and implemented by shopfitter Greenmount Espies Ltd and Fletchers for the Department of Internal Affairs.

He Tohu is a permanent exhibition in the National Library and is home to the three most iconic, important and treasured constitutional documents that shape Aotearoa New Zealand:

  • 1835, He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni - Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand.
  • 1840, Te Tiriti o Waitangi - Treaty of Waitangi.
  • 1893, Women's Suffrage Petition - Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine.

The carved solution was crafted at all levels throughout the design and construction process utilising a collaborative approach with the client’s own team, stakeholder advisory groups, and engaging early with the contractor and suppliers.

Multiple CAD technologies through to prototypes and samples, including 1:1 mock-ups, were used during the design process exploring various methodologies. The final design incorporated a total of 394 internal wall-blocks milled from reclaimed wind-blown rimu timber boards, laminated into 200x200 blocks and shaped by a five-axis CNC machine.

The rimu blocks were dowelled together with 0.5mm tolerances to allow the wood to naturally move over time. More than 100 ceiling panels were laminated from boards shaped into large panels. The CNC machine created not only the shapes, but also formed the services penetrations. Each panel was hoisted into position using 3D coordinates, then hung by a threaded rod for accurate adjustment and braced using tension wires.

Fundamentally, this technique allowed the design vision to be achieved. The curvilinear space is as if the three iconic documents have carved it from the timber themselves. It also ensured the various functional aspects, technical aspects, and the complex issue of services integration into the curvilinear form enhanced the design drivers while also minimising timber use. The room has the complexity of a building, the scale of a large room, but the craft of a piece of furniture.

Rob Stevens, client project manager, says: “What was interesting is how something so mathematically perfect, created with computer and machine, can create something so organic and beautiful.”

See more of Greenmount Espies’s work at their website.

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