The Vision

In 1997, the New Zealand Rugby Football Union conceived the idea of establishing a permanent home for the development of rugby. After successfully bidding against several other tertiary educational institutes, Massey University won the right to provide a facility which would fulfil this role at its Palmerston North campus, using an Opus International Consultants concept design for the facility as part of its bid. The facility houses the education, coaching and training of all rugby participants from amateurs through to All Blacks.

The adidas Institute of Rugby has three pitches, all floodlit, with plans to develop a fourth at some point in the future. The landmark building includes an accommodation wing for up to forty players, changing and physiotherapy rooms, teaching spaces, administration offices, boardroom, weights room and a full-contact gymnasium with state of the art, non-abrasive, artificial turf.

The Institute is perceived as being one of the tools needed to maintain New Zealand as a "leader" in the world of rugby. The building can be seen as a symbol of the innovation the NZRFU brings to rugby development in order to maintain this dynamic, leading edge position.

The building form is based on the Silver Fern emblem, using the strong central spine and tapering shape as an organisational principle. The single large roof abstractly captures the image of a silver fern, as viewed from the main entrance. The plan alters this form as if the fern is not as yet fully developed, just as the players entering this facility are yet to develop to their own full potential. The accommodation wing in it's circular form, at the stem of the fern, symbolises the victor’s laurels as a testimony to our nations excellence in the game of rugby.

First impressions are vital and this modern, state of the art facility encapsulates a sense of the history, tradition and pride that is synonymous with New Zealand's national game and combine it with the NZRFU's forward-looking approach. Visitors disembark into a welcoming plaza and on approaching the building, must climb up stairs or a ramp to a grandly scaled entrance, before then crossing a bridge separating the 'outside world' and the elite world of representative rugby. All of this heightens the sense of the drama of entering these "hallowed portals".

The entrance foyer offers views beyond to the playing fields, to the soaring void of the gymnasium alongside, and of the two floor levels above. The ground floor is 1.5 metres higher than the gymnasium to increase the available height in the gym, allowing direct access to and from the playing fields. The raised entrance level allows the changing and physiotherapy rooms to be housed in a semi-sunken basement with access from the accommodation, main building, playing fields and gymnasium. The main portion of the facilities building is structured according to function and level of privacy required, with flexible, ground floor teaching and dining rooms (the day-to-day functions), first floor weights room, management offices and boardroom and second floor management suites overlooking the fields.

The building is intended to be bright and spacious, with the glazed spine and glazed walls allowing the maximum amount of natural light to penetrate to the centre of the building. The spine splits the building in two allowing daylight into the heart of the ground floor, creating a central 'high street' for the Institute, around which the life of the building will occur. Glazed walls to rooms on the west side and a 7 metre high sloping monolithic timber veneered wall to the east, enclose this void. This allows certain functions to be openly conducted whilst shielding more private functions from the public gaze - a reminder that even a high profile body like the NZRFU demands privacy from time to time. The spine walkway on ground and first floor ties all areas of the building together, from the gymnasium, through the main block, past the garden courtyard to the accommodation block beyond. Bridges from the spine across the three storey internal void in two locations provide dramatic access to the boardroom and offices on the first floor.

As players will spend up to four weeks at the Institute, it is necessary to have pleasant relaxed surroundings for accommodation, where players and coaches can feel a definite separation between the 'work' of the day and the relaxation of 'free' time. To achieve this the accommodation blocks are separated from the main building at the northern end of the development and the space between opened up to form a private garden. Making the accommodation block two stories, with two wings of five double rooms on each story, organised around communal lounges and ablution areas, helps increase the feeling of enclosure and privacy on such an open site.
The building's form and orientation are intended to provide maximum
shelter and use of natural light, heat and cooling. The roof is shaped to take account of the prevailing north-westerly and southerly winds, whilst the large eaves, orientation of glass, and thermal mass of the concrete floors make use of low morning and winter sun to warm the interior whilst shading from the strong summer sun.


The silver fern is depicted through the main stem and secondary off shoots being constructed of glazing on a background of BHP Zincalume® coated steel. In addition to contributing to the aesthetic appearance, the glazing also has a functional purpose of providing natural light to the building.

Turning the architects vision into reality presented special challenges for both the roofing design and detailing. For technical support the architect sought assistance from Dimond Industries and a glazing supplier. One of the main problems to overcome was the provision of suitable flashings between the roofing and the glazing elements, given the three different slopes within the plane of the roof. This lead to the development of appropriate details to suit this particular application.

0.55 BMT G550 corrugated Zincalume® steel was selected as the main roofing material. The corrugated profile is symmetrical allowing the curved roof shape to be achieved. In addition to providing the eye catching silver colour, the Zincalume® coating also combines the corrosion protection of aluminum with the sacrificial protection of zinc, giving the advantages of both metals. The resulting alloy significantly enhances the corrosion resistance of roofing in the aggressive New Zealand environment where prevailing winds can carry salt laden air many kilometres inland.

The metal roofing, soffit and ceiling contract was awarded to Metalcraft Industries and Lance Berry Roofing, a manufacturer backed supply and fit partnership. From the outset it was clear that this project would provide some challenges and it would require all the skill and expertise of the installation team to transform the visual concept into reality.

Some 11 tonnes of 0.55 Zincalume® steel was installed on the main roof. The upper area (above the central glazing spine) was fixed as a conventional straight section at 10 degree pitch using G550 high tensile sheeting. The lower curved section has a radius of 15 metre and G300 low tensile sheeting was selected for this area. The sheeting was drape laid over the fire retardant paper, 50mm insulation, fire retardant foil and netting with a slight longitudinal twist following parallel to the adjacent sheet. This resulted in roof sheets being 300mm out-of-square at the gutter line, requiring insitu trimming.

An additional 10 tonne of corrugated 0.55 Zincalume® steel was installed reverse drape laid to the soffit linings. Internally, P119 perforated 0.55 corrugated Zincalume® steel was also reverse drape laid to the ceilings as an acoustic lining, with the 10,000 holes per square meter assisting installation through its reduced strength.

Project team:

Client: Massey University and the N.Z.R.F.U.
Architect: Opus International Consultants Ltd.
Structural Engineer: Opus International Consultants Ltd.
Project Manager: Opus International Consultants Ltd.
Quantity Surveyors: Rider Hunt Kitching Ltd.
Main Contractor: McMillan and Lockwood P.N. Ltd.
Steel Fabrication: Stevenson's Structural Engineers Ltd.
Steel Detailers:
BDS Donpel (NZ) Ltd.
Structural Steel Suppliers:
BHP New Zealand Steel Ltd.
BHP Steltech Structural Ltd.
Steelpipe New Zealand Ltd.
Fletcher Steel Ltd.
Purlin Suppliers:
Dimond Industries Ltd.
Roofing Suppliers: Metalcraft Industries Ltd.
Roofing Fixer: