A unique location calls for a unique design response, and there's no doubt that the Goat Island Marine Reserve at Leigh, north of Auckland, fits such a classification.
The waters teem with marine life from estuary, gulf and ocean, and it is due to such abundance that the reserve is recognised both locally and internationally as a significant research site. The area is home to the University of Auckland's Leigh campus the South Pacific Marine Research Institute, comprising the Leigh Marine Laboratory and Edith Winstone Blackwell Interpretive Centre.
The significance of the reserve and the research undertaken by marine scientists and students has led to the redevelopment of the campus to better suit the needs of the university and staff. But the redevelopment has also been about educating the public on the role of the institute, says architect Pip Cheshire, who was commissioned to masterplan and design the new buildings, which include an interpretive centre and science block.
"Given the relationship between the campus on the hill and the beach below, which draws around 300,000 people annually, the university could see an opportunity to showcase its research," says Cheshire. "This prompted the idea of an interpretive centre for visitors that would be like a front door to the marine science department."
Cheshire says although buildings have been on the site since the late '50s, a full environmental assessment was required for the masterplan.
"The university wanted to maintain the informality of the site and the naturalness of the setting. The buildings needed to tuck in behind the pohutukawa, and there had to be clearly defined public and private areas. This led to the idea of using the architecture to stratify or layer one's experience with the site."