Rotorua Museum architect appointed

Thursday 27, September 2018 | News |

DPA Architects, with previous experience refurbishing Rotorua Museum, has been appointed to carry out the design work for the restoration of the heritage Bath House building, with help from local firm, Carling Architects.

Rotorua Lakes Council’s Arts and Culture manager, Stewart Brown, says restoration work is due to get underway from July next year with the expectation the museum will reopen its doors in 2021.

“DPA has a track record of working on heritage buildings around the country. It is also familiar with the specific challenges of the Bath House from its time doing the heritage renovations in 1997 when they worked on the foyer, reception and some of the original baths,” he said.

Rotorua Museum, a category one heritage building in Government Gardens, closed in November 2016 following a rapid seismic risk assessment which identified the building was earthquake prone.

Mr Brown says Rotorua-based Carling Architects will have a vital ‘on the ground’ presence throughout the project, as well as providing additional architectural support.

Since the museum’s closure a lot of work has taken place behind the scenes:

  • Architectural drawings are at a concept phase
  • GDCs detailed structural engineering designs, where the bulk of the work has been focused to date, are nearly complete
Artist’s impression of the Museum café concept design. DPA Architects

The project team expects to have all the design work finished early next year. 

“This building is not only loved by our Rotorua community, but is nationally significant so it’s really important that we take the time to do it properly.  We aim to achieve this in a way that balances respect for the building’s heritage, achieves structural strength and is practical.  What we’ve learnt with this work is that what may be seen as a small change on the face of it can actually be incredibly tricky and time consuming to get right,” said Mr Brown.

“The Rotorua Bath House is one of New Zealand’s truly iconic buildings.  DPA Architects are delighted to have the opportunity of overseeing this next chapter in the building’s life which will see it strengthened and refurbished for present and future generations,” said Dave Pearson of DPA Architects.

During the recent long term planning round, Rotorua Lakes Council agreed to commit $15 million towards the seismic strengthening of the Rotorua Bath House, with the balance of funds for the project to be sourced externally. The Rotorua Museum Centennial Trust, which was so successful in raising the funds to extend the building back in 2011, will once again lead the fundraising campaign.

Museum staff are currently removing all remaining taonga and exhibition infrastructure from the building in readiness.

Building construction is expected to take around 18 months followed by a detailed exhibition installation programme prior to the museum being reopened to the public in 2021.

Since Rotorua Museum closed the remaining staff have continued to run numerous programmes:

  • Free daily Government Gardens tours 
  • Its education team work at the Rotorua Library in Te Aka Mauri and provide 16 curriculum linked programmes for school students across the country
  • Collection staff continue to care for more than 55,000 objects and artworks in the museum storage facility
  • Its events team continue to organise events including Matariki, Nightmare at the Museum and holiday programmes

For further information:

Joanna Doherty, Business Development Manager

Arts & Culture Division, Rotorua Lakes Council

P: 07 351 7831    C: 027 272 5768    E:

Image credit: Artist’s impression of the Museum café concept design. DPA Architects

Image credit: Gallery de-install in progress. Photo courtesy of Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa

Additional Information

DPA Architects

With over 20 years’ experience renovating and restoring heritage buildings around New Zealand DPA Architects have a wealth of knowledge to bring to the project.

DPA Architects also has considerable museum experience, including previous work on the Rotorua Bath House building. From 1995 – 1997 their work included restoration of the rear veranda, restoration of original baths and reinstatement of the double height entry foyer. The exterior was also refurbished and repainted. DPA Architects received both a NZIA Regional Award and Tasman Heritage Award as recognition for that work on Rotorua Museum.

The firm has had significant involvement with the Christchurch rebuild since the earthquakes in 2010 – 2012, and has extensive experience in retrofitting buildings to resist seismic forces, as well as adapting them to accommodate current uses. Projects in Christchurch have included the Christchurch Arts Centre and many churches.

Carling Architects

Based in Rotorua, Carling Architects will provide local knowledge and additional architectural services as required, effectively acting as the ‘eyes and ears’ for DPA Architects in Rotorua.

Established in 1990 Carling Architects is an award winning practice with a wealth of experience, particularly in the commercial and education sectors. Recent local work has included Rotorua Girls High School Arena, Rotorua Eye Clinic, and they are currently working on the new performing arts centre for John Paul College.

What has happened since Rotorua Museum closed

18 November 2016: Rotorua Museum closed following a rapid seismic risk assessment which determined the building was earthquake prone.

December 2016 – August 2017: Research, destructive testing and analysis to determine in detail the condition of the building and the ground on which it sits.

August 2017 – December 2017: Four structural strengthening options were evaluated, and the preferred option selected.

December 2017: Detailed seismic assessment was completed which rated the building at 19% of new building standard. Buildings below 34% are considered earthquake prone, while those under 67% are considered earthquake risk.

December 2017 – February 2018: Engineers GDC developed the structural concept design for strengthening the building, for review by Rotorua Lakes Council and Heritage New Zealand.

February 2018 – December 2018: Structural design developed into detailed drawings and specifications with estimated costs.

May 2018: Rotorua Lakes Council long term plan signed off following community consultation. Council approved $15 million towards strengthening the Rotorua Museum building with the balance required to be sourced externally.

Next steps for the Rotorua Museum project

Now to December 18: Developed design phase

December 18 – July 19: Detailed design phase

July 19: Contractor procurement and construction commencement

Jul 19 – 2020: Construction

2021: Exhibition installation prior to Museum reopening

Museum project funding status

Rotorua Lakes Council has agreed to contribute $15 million towards earthquake strengthening of the Bath House building as part of its Long Term Plan approved in May this year.

Detailed cost estimates, based on the latest structural and architectural plans, are currently being developed by the project’s quantity surveyor and are expected by the end of the year.

An expression of interest has been submitted to the Regional Provincial Growth fund and once the outcome is known a funding strategy will be developed to raise the remaining required funds.

With support from Rotorua Lakes Council, Rotorua Museum Centennial Trust, chaired by Lyall Thurston QSO JP, will lead fundraising for the project. The Trust also led the successful fundraising programme for the extensions to the Bath House building from 2006 to 2011.

Brief history of the Bath House building

1908: Rotorua Bath House opened by Admiral Sperry of the American Fleet

1911-12: South wing addition completed

1947: Bath House transferred to the Health Department

1963: Bath House transferred to Rotorua District Council along with a grant of $64,000

1965: Tudor Towers restaurant, and later nightclub, took up lease of upstairs area

1969: City of Rotorua Museum opened in South Wing

1977: Rotorua City Art Gallery opened in North Wing

1988: Art Gallery and Museum amalgamated

1990: Tudor Towers restaurant and nightclub lease expired

2006: North Wing viewing platform reinstated – Stage I of Centennial project

2008: North Wing gallery extensions completed – Stage II of Centennial project

2011: South Wing gallery extensions completed – Stage III of Centennial project

November 2016: Rotorua Museum closed for earthquake strengthening on the Bath House building