Regional | Awards

Mana whenua-owned Wai Ariki Hot Springs a world architecture finalist

Wai Ariki announced as World Architecture Festival finalist for 2024. Photo / Supplied

Only 12 months after its official opening, Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa in Rotorua is a finalist in the World Architecture Festival 2024.

The luxury spa has already won several design and architecture awards here and overseas, and now it is competing with international buildings in the WAF completed buildings – hotel and leisure category at the festival.

Wai Ariki was designed by RCG and developed by Pukeroa Lakefront Holdings (PLHL) to reflect Ngāti Whakaue’s heritage and manaakitanga.

The design includes local whakairo using the volcanic colour palette of the surrounding rohe and was designed to combine Rotorua’s natural geothermal resources with traditional Ngāti Whakaue wellbeing practices.

Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa general manager Debbie Robertson said the building was part of the experience for manuhiri.

“Our spa experiences are inextricably linked with the physical space, with each drawing from and supporting the other as manuhiri experience Wai Ariki, the indigenous spa treatments, natural mineral waters, and the Ngāti Whakaue story that underpins every part,” Robertson said.

PLHL chairman David Tapsell is proud of the international attention and said being shortlisted in itself was a win for PLHL, the Wai Ariki team, spa manager Belgravia, designers RCG, Ngāti Whakaue, and the wider Rotorua community.

“Wai Ariki lives and breathes through an innovative, authentic design that’s specific to our rohe, envisioned by the minds of Ngāti Whakaue mana whenua, and delivered by Kiwi architects. This latest recognition places it on a pedestal in front of the world,” said Tapsell.

“We are proud to deliver an experience that is tightly woven with who we are as Ngāti Whakaue, and to be able to share our unique heritage and manaakitanga with the world in this way. In turn, we are extremely proud of the future outcomes it will deliver for our whānau, both now and into the years ahead.”

RCG was elated by the international and national recognition.

“We were given the wero (challenge), guided by PLHL, to create a culturally, architecturally, experiential and beautiful space, offering manuhiri visiting Wai Ariki a visual and sensory experience like no other,” RCG Director John Lenihan said.

“The goal was to seamlessly blend Ngāti Whakaue’s rich cultural heritage and healing practices with breathtaking, indigenously driven design. We’re delighted with how people are responding to it and the awards that have already been received, and look forward to showcasing Wai Ariki on the world stage later this year.”

The winners for WAF 2024 will be announced in Singapore in November.