Taupo Airport Terminal

As well as being a functional and efficient space, Taupo Airport’s new terminal was designed to provide a sense of arrival and a sense of place.

This was recognised at the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Architecture Awards, with the terminal earning a win in the commercial architecture category for its “efficient, functional layout” and “artwork [that] tells the story of the volcanic region”.

Full-height landscape murals at either end of the building tell visitors about the local environment as do other features that bring the natural world into the building such as the rimu trunks from the Pureora Forest that provide sculptural elements, and the central mauri stone from Tauhara Quarry that is placed in the waiting area and mimics the shape of Tauhara’s peak.

There is also a remarkable, large-scale ceramic artwork by Barry Brickell, which has been restored and installed to showcase the volcanic history of the area.

Shelter Architects lead architect Paul Raven says that the building needed to engage with and reflect the local landscape and environment while providing a welcoming gateway for residents and visitors. 

“When they arrive, visitors needed to know where they were, and locals needed to feel like they were back home.

“That was part of our bid for the job right from the outset; that it’s a gateway to this area and what it has to offer and we wanted people to be drawn into that.”

He added that there was also a lot of collaboration with iwi, artists and local tradesmen and interest groups that helped to shape the narrative of the building.
Paul says one of the challenges of the job was building the new terminal while the airport was still operating, although moving construction from the old site to a new location helped to ease that problem.

The site for the new terminal was shifted to the south, allowing uninterrupted operations of the existing terminal and reducing costs. This took careful planning because of constraints around airport safety and security.  

“With the new terminal, we wanted to realign it and have it more connected to the runway and also to capture the view of Tauhara to the north and Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe to the south. 

“To do that, we used a raked roof that skews the line of the building off towards the view of these mountains.”

Paul says the raked roof is also more dynamic and wing-like with the full-height glass walls and the deep eaves of the roof giving the impression that the roof is floating.

He says of the $10 million terminal, which was built by Taupo’s Watts Construction and is three times the size of the old terminal, “it’s really a glorified shed but the detailing is what elevates it”.

Financial constraints meant a simple steel portal structure with an AspireSpan insulated panel system roof was the most cost-effective way to go. “Using one material for the roof is much more cost-effective; if you start using a few different components then the costs go up dramatically.”

AspireSpan consists of a 0.59mm profiled roofing sheet bonded to a PIR flat core with a ceiling panel sheet bonded to the underside. Panels can be up to 24m in length.

Shelter Architects made a point of choosing materials such as Abodo timber, Zenith plywood ceiling panels and timber framing from the region. The terminal also has energy-efficient fittings, mechanical systems, and low waste practices. 

Come the time the old terminal is demolished, many of the materials will be recycled as part of the drive to minimise waste.

That has already been achieved by rescuing the Barry Brickell ceramic artwork that has pride of place on one of the terminal’s interior walls.

Paul says, “The Barry Brickell work came off the side of a local building and was going to the dump but Chris Johnson [chair of the airport committee] managed to get some funds to rescue and restore it,” says Paul.

“It would have been such as shame to see that go into landfill because it’s an amazing work and tells the story of the volcanic plateau – you can see the area’s landforms and lakes when you look at it.”

Paul says the terminal, which opened earlier this year, is a tribute to the people involved and the vision of the Taupo District Council, which wanted to go beyond a bland airport space to create something that was unique and reflected the character of Taupo.

“It was a collaborative effort driven by locals, bringing the right people in at the right time – and I’m really pleased with the sense of arrival you get at the airport.” 

Shelter Architects

Based in Taupo, Shelter Architects services all of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.​

The company was founded when Stephenson and Turner modified its ownership structure in 2022, creating more autonomous and independent regional offices. 

Although rebranded as Shelter Architects to reflect a more modern and dynamic studio, the Taupo office maintains strong ties and working relationships with the collective group.

Shelter prides itself on understanding the first principles of Architecture, and having complete confidence to tackle any type of project, big or small, and in any medium of building design.

Shelter chooses to not specialise or pigeon-hole themselves, but rather enjoy the variation in different types of projects, and the clientele, sites, briefs and budgets that go with that.

Forever upskilling and learning, the Shelter team thrives on the endless possibilities and ideas that Architecture pioneers, and embraces both the history and future challenges that building and design offer.

Roofing supplier: 
Metalcraft Roofing

Roofing contractor:  
Phlex Construction 
Phone: (07) 929 7979 

Roofing material: 
ColorSteel Aspirespan in ‘Slate’