The new building lighting up Auckland's cityscape

by Vomle Springford / 16 November, 2017

Haka Hotel.

The light fantastic

A new building adds a jolt of colour to the cityscape

It’s a pretty undistinguished structure by day, but by night, the new Haka Hotel on Day Street (just off Karangahape Road) takes on a whole new personality. The building, which used to be a car park, is owned by Andy Davies, the developer behind Ponsonby Central, and designed by architect Jan Bernau. Here, Bernau chats about how they lit up the building.

Tell us about the colours used.
The pink path was something we tried to relate to with the pastel colours because you can see the building from there. Then we’ve got one that is a bit more complicated, based on Mondrian, the painter. That relates to the randomness of the tetris façade during the day. The thing is that when you look during the day, the façade is quite plain so that was the main motivation for the Mondrian at night - to accentuate what we wanted to do. It was important it didn’t look like a bordello, too colourful or too in your face. We tried to use colour in a subtle way but still something that has presence.

What do you think it will add to the cityscape of Auckland?
It’s in such a key position. You can see [the hotel] from all the motorways, even the Harbour Bridge. We just wanted to make something for people to enjoy and make a building that has something to offer at night.

What is the technology behind it?
They’re all LEDs and all wifi controlled. Every balcony is on individual colour and programming. I think we have 90 balconies roughly and there’s a central processing unit where they can be programmed. We wanted the LED strips to be invisible – recessed – so they look like part of the decking timber and completely disappear. That was quite important to us so that you don’t have some ugly floodlights hanging somewhere.

Why incorporate this aspect into the architecture?
For economical reasons, we had to make the most of the site and maximise space, so that didn’t leave us too much freedom. We wanted to make a statement architecturally with these lights during the night. Especially since when you look around Auckland at night, the nightlife’s not the greatest and there’s not much light happening. It’s nice to have a splash of colour in there – especially with Mondrian, there’s a bit of a story behind it, something to relate to.

Is it something you’ve done before in your architecture practice?
No. We always use light wherever we can but never to this extent. We were told it was quite expensive and not possible [because] we wanted it to be completely flexible, but Jackie Wu from Lumenworks made it happen. He turned it into reality. It’s amazing how much light the LEDs put out.

Would this have been possible five years ago?
I think we got the timing right. I don’t think it would have been affordable then. Maybe the technology was there but LEDs really kicked in the last few years.

Will you change the lights in the future?
We do want to do something for Christmas but we don’t want it to look tacky. The test one we did looked like Vegas! So that was a no-go. That’s one of the reasons Andy spent the money and went with this programme. We can add different themes in future.

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