There are four main design phases to any major construction project, and the Sir Howard Morrison Centre project is no different:

  • Concept design – the earliest phase of the design process broadly outlines conceptual solutions to meet the requirements of the design brief
  • Preliminary design – in this phase the concept design is refined with scaled plans and elevations
  • Developed design – the design is refined and final decisions are made for the use of materials. The building is sufficiently defined to give a clear understanding of the scope of work, costs and the architectural look and feel
  • Detailed design – this stage includes detailed drawings, schedules, specifications and contracts. These documents are all required before a building consent can be issued. Changes made at this stage can be extremely costly

For big projects, it is common for a qualified quantity surveyor to reprice the project at the end of each design phase. As the design becomes more detailed, the costs change and become more accurate.


Because the Sir Howard Morrison Centre is a category one historic building, and has had a number of alterations and additions over its life, the team has had to undertake thorough investigations to get a comprehensive picture of how it has been constructed and the current state of the building – particularly in areas that aren’t visible, like behind walls and under floors.

As the project has progressed, the team has learned more and more about the building. As a result the designs are continuously evolving to take account of new information. What is proposed at the concept stage, may change in the preliminary or developed design phases.

At each of the design stages, all elements of the design need to be aligned. All the services, including electrical, fire, mechanical, plumbing, etc. need to work together with the proposed architectural and structural designs.

If one small element changes in the structural design – say an additional steel beam needs inserting to achieve the required seismic strength – this has a flow on effect to all other design elements, which then need updating.


Detailed design complete

Throughout 2020 the team worked to integrate cultural stories into the design. These cultural integrations were fully supported by Ngāti Whakaue with the introduction of Henriata Nicholas to the design team.

Nicholas, a well-known designer artist of Ngāti Whakaue descent, has brought with her a wealth of knowledge in public art design and cultural community integration on various public art projects.

An amendment to the resource consent was approved in 2020 and building consent was granted in September 2020. Council approved the main construction contract in September 2020 and construction started at the end of the same month. Construction is due for completion in mid-2022, with the centre scheduled to re-open later that year following theatre services fit-out.

Final result?

Once the Sir Howard Morrison Centre project is finished, much of the original 1940s architecture will be exposed and restored, with a new, contemporary foyer roof spanning the two heritage wings.

Internally, the spaces, systems and services will be redeveloped to provide enhanced flexibility, improved functionality, and better access for performing arts delivering a venue worthy of Sir Howard’s legacy.