News & Events

Culture and Heritage design elements within CET Arena revealed

Wednesday June 10 2020

Palmerston North City Council today revealed the cultural and heritage elements that will be woven through the new-look Central Energy Trust Arena.

Construction on stage one of the Arena upgrade got underway in early May.  

Over the next year, a new entrance plaza with a striking eight-metre wide entrance bridge made of natural timber will be established on the corner of Cuba and Waldegrave Streets, state of the art speedway pits installed, and the embankment redeveloped.    

Design overlay embraces all communities

A number of city communities and user groups from its past, including as Palmerston North Showgrounds, and present, are reflected in the design installations, including Rangitāne, Speedway, Rugby, Manawatu Sports icons, and Defence.

Rangitāne Tohunga Whakairo Warren Warbrick has been advising the design experience team in cultural expression. 

He says the whakatauki or proverb He aho tangata – the threads that bind us – was the key concept for cultural design elements in the Arena project. The proverb refers to the weaving technique for making kākahu, or cloaks. Some cloaks of significance include a taniko border, comprised of triangular configurations, known as niho. These intricate designs have inspired large scale, abstract formations that complement the landscape architecture.  

“Within tradition, a rangatira, or chief, would lay his cloak, physically or symbolically, upon the ground in front of a people in great need. It would place them under the mana and protection of the rangatira in the name of peace until they were able to stand on their own two feet again. In a modern context, the whakatauki embraces all our communities as one, under the kaupapa of Rangimarie, or mantle of peace.” 

The culture and heritage overlay provides for a heritage timeline of the Arena displayed at eyeline so when visitors walk through the entrance plaza they can learn about the historical significance of the Arena illuminated through light. There will also be the ability to experience voices from the past and present within a series of quotes from well-known personalities connected to the site and the region.

Design thinking within the infrastructure

General Manager of Venues, Sacha Haskell, says the design is reflective of many significant stakeholder groups of the Arena and the meaning will resonate with a broad variety of residents and visitors to the venue when completed.  

“There are a number of experiential feelings we want people to have when they walk through the gates of the new Arena. The design has a cultural significance, but also reflects a sense of movement, is representative of a variety of users while being functional. The design by Warren Warbrick resonated with the Chevron design used in motorsport, and which also features on the ‘stripes’ of rank within the Defence force. It also has a functional benefit showing direction and gives a sense of movement to visitors.  The cloak reflected how a crowd attending a large scale event feels united with the other people at the sport, concert, or event that has brought them here. That feeling of connectedness will start from the minute they step foot into the Arena.” 

Ms Haskell says the work also shows that Council is getting smarter with design and storytelling. 

“Design elements can often be added as an afterthought to construction, or added without a clear purpose in mind, but we wanted to make sure design thinking occurred in the construction process itself. Having this work completed in tandem with product selection and construction meant we’d pay homage to the heritage and culture of the site and also minimise costs."

This Taniko-inspired pattern will feature in multiple locations throughout the arena, including paving, seating and through lighting treatments along the eight-metre wide timber bridge.  

As part of the design thinking, when not in use for speedway, the speedway pits forms an open recreation space with a marked running track alongside the extensive open green space for the community to use and enable the venue to be opened up for flexible use such as outdoor entertainment and activation like drive in cinema.

Design will continue for the extent of the project

These elements will extend throughout the masterplan construction with Rangitāne continuing to work with the design team to build on these features ahead of stage 2 construction.  

Mayor Grant Smith, Chair of the Arena Masterplan Project Steering Group, said the design received overwhelming support from all the stakeholders on the committee representing the major users of the facility. He said it’s exciting to see the partnership with Rangitāne demonstrated physically within the pattern and cloak elements which will also be used on other sites around the city in the coming years, to show that we are one community and everyone is welcome in Palmy.