Unveiled in December 2020, the transformation of the South Atrium at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum embraces South Pacific geography and culture to provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for visitors. The architectural Tanoa Bowl design with glowing Barrisol panels beneath creates a stunning central meeting point for the space.
The design of the atrium was a collaboration between Jasmax with FJMT and design TRIBE who built upon the original 2006 vision for the atrium by Noel Lane Architects. They aimed to bring the Tanoa Bowl concept — which had been lost within a series of infills, add-ons and stairways — back to the forefront of the design in order to uplift the cultural dignity of the South Atrium, also known as Te Ao Mārama (meaning coming into the light, enlightenment).
For the underside of the Tanoa Bowl, the design team conceived a geometric design which was backlit to provide a glowing effect. The design on the underside references both the Pacific tradition of star maps and star navigation and the radial geometry of the South Atrium. It also cleverly integrates service trenches for lighting and audio-visual display.
To achieve the design, a lightweight acoustic material that could be backlit was required. FJMT Studio suggested Barrisol stretch fabric, having used the unique material on previous projects. “We saw a stretched ceiling product like Barrisol offering artwork quality, practical flexibility and longevity,” says Simon Barr, FJMT Studio. Barrisol A20 Acoperf was specified in the warm gold Laiton colour in Barrisol Metallic to provide acoustic performance and create the look the architects wanted.
Stretchmaster Ceilings, exclusive suppliers of Barrisol in New Zealand, custom-built the complex framing for the Barrisol ceiling on site. In total, over 800 linear metres of rail was used for the made-to-measure frames, with the intricate design featuring over 300 individual angles formed with a series of small and large triangles that together create the eye-catching geometric effect.
The Barrisol stretch fabric panels arrived from France by air — even in the midst of Covid-19 disruptions — with all 108 lightweight panels packed into only four boxes. The light weight of the panels, paired with the fact that they use plasticisers made from cornstarch make them a more sustainable option than similar PVC alternatives. With frames already installed and the panels pre-cut to specification, the Stretchmaster Ceilings team were able to install the panels without offcuts or dust.
Stretchmaster also provided the lighting for the ceiling using 200m of LED strip lighting at 3000K lumen behind the Barrisol panels. A custom solution was needed for the backlighting of this unique Barrisol installation which featured a single layer of the microperforated Barrisol A20 acoustic panel. To meet the challenge, Stretchmaster installed the LED strip lighting directly onto the framing, with lights facing upwards to reflect off the white painted ceiling above and illuminate the panels without revealing the strip lights.
The warmth and flexibility of the Barrisol material brings a softness to the design and complements the timber throughout the South Atrium. “The material creates a very soft underbelly for the Tanoa as the centre drops slightly creating a convex surface overhead,” says Marianne.
The overall experience of the space is enhanced by a looping audio-visual experience for guests with soundscapes, waiata and animated visuals that share the stories of Ngāti Whātua Orākei, Ngāti Paoa and Waikato Tainui — the three mana whenua iwi that make up the Museum’s Taumata-ā-Iwi. The acoustic performance of the Barrisol ceiling helps to effectively reduce reverberation and ensure acoustic separation between this space and the wider atrium.
The final result is an engaging welcome for visitors to Te Ao Mārama South Atrium that brings together references to mana whenua and pacific cultures, artwork and architectural elements, providing a world class museum experience. The highly bespoke Barrisol ceiling creates a visually stunning focal point for the space that effectively provides warmth, light and acoustic control for the meeting space below while drawing attention to the Tanoa bowl above.
2021 Interior Awards Winner — Supreme Award and Civic Award
2021 Auckland Architecture Awards Winner – Heritage and Public Architecture