Airport hotels may be commonplace in many cities around the world, but the concept is a first for Auckland Airport. And while the idea of a hotel beside the terminal is not original, the team behind the new Novotel Auckland Airport decided very early on the hotel would set a new benchmark.
The joint venture between Tainui Group Holdings, one of New Zealand's largest Maori commercial entities, Auckland Airport and hotel operator Accor is an acknowledgement of the huge growth in projected visitor numbers. At present, the airport handles more than 13 million passengers annually, and this is expected to grow to 24 million by 2025, with more than 70% of all international visitors to New Zealand arriving or departing from Auckland.
Mike Pohio, Tainui Group Holdings CEO and chairman of the joint venture, says the hotel will be the first and last impression many visitors have of the country, so the design needed to be infused with subtle references to New Zealand's natural environment, culture, art and heritage. It needed to reflect the fact that the area is of great cultural significance for the Waikato-Tainui people. Tainui were among the first waves of Polynesian migration, arriving via the Manukau Harbour, and landing and settling in the area where the airport now operates.
Architect Jonathan Hewlett of Warren and Mahoney, the company that won the commission to design the hotel, says the project provided a unique opportunity to showcase New Zealand to a global audience.
"We could see this was a chance for visitors to engage directly with New Zealand's culture, its people and landscape," he says. "For many travellers, it would provide their first insight into the essential qualities of New Zealand the character and essence of this country. We wanted the hotel to be a memorable part of their journey as both a first experience and a last encounter."
Hewlett says the height of the 263-room hotel, which has 12 levels, was determined by airport constraints, including flight paths. The hotel also needed to fit in contextually with its surroundings.
"We modelled the mass of the building to reflect the scale of the airport terminal, which is just 50m away. And by creating a new pedestrian plaza between the hotel and the airport, we were able to make a significant contribution to the terminal concourse the statue of Jean Batten has been given new prominence within the plaza."