Articles Final designs revealed for New Zealand's largest infrastructure project

The final designs have been revealed for City Rail Link → (CRL), the largest infrastructure project ever in Aotearoa, New Zealand. They include three train stations designed by Grimshaw in collaboration with WSP as part of the Link Alliance, a consortium of seven companies, including City Rail Link Ltd (CRL Ltd), which is delivering the main stations and tunnels for the CRL project.

The station designs have been developed in partnership with mana whenua (local tribal authority) to integrate the narratives of the Māori creation story, Te Ao Marama. The design team has worked collaboratively with CRL Ltd’s Mana Whenua forum, comprising of eight local iwi (tribes) to reflect and respond to this cultural narrative.

In addition to Te Ao Marama, the design of each station responds to its unique location in Tāmaki Makaurau, the Māori name for the geographical region of the city of Auckland,

Once CRL is complete, the stations will be connected by an underground 3.4km twin-tunnel rail link located up to 42 metres below the city centre that will double the capacity of Auckland’s rail network. Each station will be a powerful expression of its location and the line-wide design.

The CRL project has been gifted te reo Māori names for the four stations; Maungawhau (Mt Eden), Karanga a Hape (Karangahape), Te Wai Horotiu (Aotea) and Waitematā (Britomart).The te reo Māori names honour the long-standing partnership the Mana Whenua Forum has had with CRL Ltd since the inception of the project in 2012. These names are steeped in history, represent important elements of iwi tradition and heritage and reflect significant geographical features of each location. CRL Ltd together with Auckland Transport are beginning the process to have these names officially recognised by the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa, the country’s place naming authority.

Grimshaw is honoured to contribute to this significant project for Auckland in Aotearoa, New Zealand, which will change not only how people transit through their city but also how they share and celebrate the rich history of Tāmaki Makaurau. Working with the Link Alliance and in partnership with the Mana Whenua Forum has been an enriching experience for Grimshaw and a pertinent reminder of how architecture should be engaging, impactful and of its place.

Neil Stonell. Managing Partner, Grimshaw

For each station, design elements use a pattern language which aligns with the gifted te reo Māori names, allowing the art, culture and other elements to converge. In some areas, the art manifests to reflect the cultural identity of the geographical location.

Regarding Maungawhau Station (Mt Eden) the gifted name, Maungawhau, literally translates to mountain (maunga) of cork tree (whau), which was used for fishing floats and medicinal purposes.

The entrance to the station features a floor-to-ceiling wall made from patterned precast concrete with basalt inserts. The design references the atua (deity) Mataoho, the creator of the basalt volcanic field in Tāmaki Makaurau. It comprises 53 lava-coloured cast-glass triangles that are organised to represent a map of the volcanic field. The largest triangle is created from Maungawhau basalt and water flows over the surface of this and the surrounding section of the wall. This references 

Maungawhau, the basalt caverns, caves and water springs, and pays respect to Parawhenuamea (atua of freshwater) and how freshwater needs kōhatu (rock) to flow.For Karanga a Hape Station (Karangahape), the gifted name, ‘Karanga a Hape’, is a grammatical correction of the current station name.

The station is named for the great calling of Hape, who was left behind by his people when he was denied passage across the ocean in his waka (canoe). After performing a karakia (a ritual chant) he was gifted a kaitiaki (guardian) - a stingray - and together they crossed the water to arrive in Aotearoa ahead of the Tainui waka (Canoe of his people) that left before them.

While all four CRL stations are designed around the creation story with Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother), the design for Karanga a Hape Station also references their son, Tāne Mahuta, God of the forest, who pushed his parents apart to create light (day).

Allusions to the kauri tree which dominates the forests of Aotearoa are shown through the large pupurangi shells on the entrance ceiling of Karanga a Hape; pupurangi are snails that live on the leaves of the kauri tree.

Te Wai Horotiu Station (Aotea) will be Aotearoa’s (New Zealand’s) busiest station when CRL opens.

Its gifted name, Te Wai Horotiu, honours the Waihorotiu stream and wetland system that flowed in proximity to the station, past the Horotiu pā (Horotiu settlement) down to the Waitematā (harbour), providing fresh water for iwi that lived nearby.

The Wellesley Street entrance of Te Wai Horotiu (Aotea), features rods of varying lengths that are suspended from the ceiling.

The undulating pattern reflects the water as well as the kaitiaki (guardian) of the area, moving and connecting people in place as they flow through the station. In doing so, the station links the past and present where the original water source provided a service to local people for cooking, cleaning, bathing and growing food, and now Te Wai Horotiu Station (Aotea) will provide the service of transport.

The gifted name of Waitematā Station (Britomart) reflects nearby Waitematā Harbour. The station is built on land reclaimed from the harbour close to where the waters of the harbour and Waihorotiu converge; a mingling of waters and people. Just outside the station’s main entrance – the heritage-listed Chief Post Office building – is Auckland’s newest civic space, Te Komititanga, which means to mix or merge.