In October 2016 Ngāi Tahu Tourism entered into a 50/50 joint venture with Earth and Sky. Shortly after, it was announced that Earth and Sky had been successful in their funding application to the Tourism Growth Partnership Fund to build an International Astronomy Centre on the shores of Lake Takapō. Upon completion this building will be the new Earth and Sky headquarters.
As part of the application process much of the architectural design work of the building had already been completed by Earth and Sky. However, for the interior design and development of the experiences within the building Ngāi Tahu Tourism have engaged experience design company Thought Full. They will work with us to ensure that Ngāi Tahutanga, our cultural narrative, and our stories are visible in the look and feel of the building and the experiences.
A working group from manawhenua was nominated by our Papatipu Rūnanga to give advice and support to our Ngāi Tahu Tourism team with this project.
This group includes David Higgins, Mandy Home, Te Wera King, Justin Tipa and Darren Solomon and is supported by staff from the Archives, Tourism and Holdings teams and also Tahu Pōtiki of the Ngāi Tahu Tourism Board and Dr. Rangi Mātāmua, an expert in Māori star lore.
Architects Sheppard and Rout were engaged by Earth and Sky to develop the original concept for the building. This concept was presented as part of the application to the Tourism Growth Partnership Fund. A site was secured in the new Takapō Retail area, which is the development area closer to the lake front.
Part of the challenge in designing the building is finding enough space for retail, restaurant, bar, an experience zone, and facilities for the staff of Earth and Sky. The building will also be home to the Brasheer telescope, a 125 year old restored telescope that is 5.4m tall. Earth and Sky are kaitiaki of this telescope, which is considered a taonga by the global astronomy community. Below are some concept designs of what the building will
look like once completed.
THE NEW EXPERIENCES
Earth and Sky currently attracts about 30,000 number of visitors a year to their astronomy experiences . Most of these visitors are international and are primarily from the Chinese and Japanese markets. The star gazing tours currently offered by Earth and Sky are limited to night time, are weather dependant, and are designed for adults. By building an indoor paid experience it is hoped that Earth & Sky can offer more experiences that are not weather dependant, that encourage a wider group of people, and also attract day time traffic to stop in Takapō to enjoy the experience.
Thought Full have been running workshops with the Earth and Sky team, Ngāi Tahu Tourism and our Takapō manawhenua working party to help us better understand our target audiences and what they are more likely to want to pay for. It is important that the experience delivers to what these domestic and international visitors want and will pay for in order to be successful.