This Fresh From The Field by Maynard Design features a sensitively designed signage system that speaks to iconic architectural form and improves accessibility and legibility.
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Aotea – Te Pokapū, the Aotea Centre in the heart of Auckland is one of the city’s most versatile performance and convention venues. The recent refurbishment by Regional Facilities Auckland with architects Stephenson & Turner gave the 28-year-old building a much needed front-of-house facelift. The revitalisation celebrates the building’s 1980s origins through boldy applied terrazzo and patinated metal finishes, with native New Zealand timber ceilings to provide warmth.
Maynard were commissioned to develop an accessible, contemporary signage system that spoke to the architectural form of the building and improved the legibility of the centre’s complex spaces. The signage needed to be accessible, elegant, and incorporate te reo Māori.
Working to a tight timeline, Maynard ran a full day workshop with stakeholders to quickly build the design brief. The workshop established design direction, opportunities and current pain points of navigating through the building.
The most fundamental response to the brief was our desire, with the client’s full support, to respect our cultural context as designers working in Aotearoa New Zealand, and reflect that context in the design system. Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland Council) has the stated goal of transitioning from ‘Auckland to Tāmaki’, meaning that a concerted effort is being made to better represent Māori culture in the fabric of the city. This effort has multiple strands, including promotion of visual arts, cultural protocols, concepts drawn from te ao Māori (the Māori world) and the language Itself: te reo Māori.
The wayfinding system for Aotea – Te Pokapū seeks to contribute positively to this initiative on multiple levels.
The product design language is underpinned by taiao, the ecology and geology of the place. Conical black forms speak to the basalt maunga of Tāmaki Makaurau, further echoing the use of these peaks as wayfinding devices. The slender, blade-like forms of the products reference the feathers and wings of the manu who were the area’s principal inhabitants in the recent past.
Manaakitanga (hospitality) is a core design principle. In order to welcome a wide range of people, the signage needed to be intuitive, accessible and Māori first where practicable. To increase the accessibility of wayfinding information, a kit of parts was created to provide a bespoke mix of static and digital signage types, incorporating English, te reo Māori, braille and tactile type. The common construction language of wrapped aluminium, curved form, and native veneer inserts provided a commonality throughout the sign typology.
Bilingual tactile type and braille are stacked and arranged at consistent mounting heights for ease of use. During design development Maynard found the quantity of content on directories produced long, cumbersome lists. As a result, a fold in the product was introduced to organise and split content to maximise legibility of information.
The sign system for Aotea – Te Pokapū provides a refined response to the challenges posed by complex spaces and four-fold content integration. The product family subtly reflects the volcanic landscape of the region while responding to the functional requirements of the space.