News | 27 July 2023
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A history of Wellington’s significant builds: Part two

Wellington wouldn’t be Wellington without the historic buildings that make up the city’s landscape.

Old photo of the Beehive and parliament grounds with 'city building' written over the top of it.
The Beehive at Parliament. Circa 1983. Wellington City Council Archives, 00557-368-7.

 As the city embarks on its biggest transformation programme since the development of the Wellington Waterfront more than 30 years ago, we’ve created this historic timeline of how the city has evolved. This is part two, see part one here.

The Beehive – 1979

Archive image of the beehive in 1983 with cars parked on the road.
The Beehive at Parliament. Circa 1983-1984. Wellington City Council Archives, 00557-368-11.

A key landmark of the Wellington city skyline – the Beehive was designed by British architect Sir Basil Spence, who designed the concept during a visit to the city in 1964. The Beehive was built in stages from 1969 to 1979, when the first parliamentary offices moved in. 

This magnificent building is 72 metres tall, with 10 floors above ground and four floors below. It is connected to Bowen House, where many Members of Parliament and Ministers have offices, by an underground walkway that runs underneath Bowen Street.

Pipitea Marae – 1980

A black and white photo of a marae with people gathered out the front.
Pipitea Marae. Circa 1980. Image from NZ History.

Pipitea Marae was built in the early 1980s to meet the needs of the urban Māori population of Wellington and where traditional kawa and protocol are observed. In 2009, the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust and the Ngāti Poneke Māori Association Inc created a partnership where they offer the Marae to be used and embraced by all.

Pipitea Marae continues to signify a place for people of all iwi and races to meet. Read more on NZ History.

The City Art Gallery – 1980

A black and white photo of the city gallery with a car parked outfront.
The old location of the City Art Gallery on Victoria Street. Circa 1980. Image from City Art Gallery.

The initial City Art Gallery started with humble beginnings, with an exhibition space on Victoria Street of 265 square metres and three full time staff, with shows running every four to six weeks.

Black and white photo of a building with cars lined up infront of it.
The old Wellington Public Library building, which is now the City Art Gallery. Circa 1951. Wellington City Council Archives, 00508-5372.

In 1988, the hours were extended and more programmes were added, and it became the highest year of attendance to date. The gallery then made a move to Chews Lane, before moving to its current location, which was previously the Wellington Public Library, during the Civic Square development in 1992.

Te Papa – 1988 

Tiny Colonial Museum, Wellington, 29 September 1934, Wellington, by Leslie Adkin. Gift of G. L. Adkin family estate, 1964. Te Papa (A.005434).

The story of Te Papa begins with it’s predecessor, the tiny Colonial Museum, which opened behind Parliament’s buildings in 1865. In 1907, it was renamed the Dominion Museum and took on a broader national focus. 

Black and white buildings with the war memorial in the front and the dominion building in the back.
The Carillon and former Dominion Museum (National Museum of New Zealand). Circa 1936. Hall Raine Studios, 50010-113.

In 1936, a new building to house the Dominion Museum and new National Art Gallery opened in Buckle Street. In 1972, the Dominion Museum became the National Museum.

A panorama image of Te Papa.
Image from Te Papa.

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Act 1992 demonstrated a shift to represent New Zealand’s culturally diverse society and reach a broader audience. Emphasis was placed on collections and the nation’s access to them – which gave rise to the Te Papa we all know and love today. 

Zealandia - 1989

Old Karori Reservoir before it became Zealandia.
The Wellington Waterworks at Karori, later to become the site of the Zealandia wildlife bird sanctuary. Circa 1900. Burton Brothers. Wellington City Recollect, 50002-9-250.

Zealandia began long before the fence was built, when founder Jim lynch and his wife Eve joined the local branch of the Royal Forest & Bird Society as committee members in 1989. Jim proposed a strategic plan to bring birds back to Wellington in 1990, and when the Karori Reservoir closed in 1992, plans were underway to develop the eco-sanctuary. 

Construction of the fence began in 1999, and it was completed in August the same year. Now, it's the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore the valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to pre-human state.

Civic Square – 1991

Civic Square under reconstuction.
Civic Square during reconstruction in 1989. Wellington City Council Archives, 00557-656-8.

Wellington’s Civic Square sits on land reclaimed from the harbour in the 1880s. It was created by the Wellington City Council as part of major, long-running projects to expand the city and build a more robust harbour. 

Many civic buildings were constructed on the site, including the Town Hall and Wellington Library. The square was officially opened in November 1991. 

Wellington Regional Stadium (Sky Stadium) – 2000

Wellington Regional Stadium from above.

Known commercially as ‘Sky Stadium’ since 2020 and as Westpac Stadium for 20 years before that, the Wellington Regional Stadium has been a fixture of New Zealand’s sport and cultural landscape for over two decades. The Stadium has hosted a wide range of sporting events and concerts, making it a popular destination for Wellingtonians and visitors alike.  

Building a new Stadium was first proposed in the early 1990s, when the main destination for Wellington sports events at the time, Athletic Park, was no longer able to meet the safety and capacity needs of the growing population. Athletic Park was well loved, but it was not well placed.

After 21 months of construction, the stadium opened in 2000. The stadium made history as the world’s first purpose-built modern cricket and rugby stadium and had 34,500 seats. Since its official opening on 3 January 2000, it has played host to numerous high-profile events, including international rugby matches, and concerts by some of the world's biggest musicians.

The Wharewaka - 2011

The Wharewaka on the Wellington waterfront at dusk with lights on side the building.
Wharewaka on the Wellington Waterfront. Image from WellingtonNZ.

Te Raukura - The Wharewaka (canoe house) on Wellington’s waterfront is not only an elegant home for the city’s two waka (canoes), it is the fulfilment of a vision to return Māori presence to Te Whanganui-ā-Tara/Wellington Harbour. 

The Wharewaka opened on Waitangi Day in 2011 and the design is based on a korowai (cloak), which signifies mana and prestige. It's now known as an indigenous Māori cultural experience, which provides visitors to Wellington with an authentic and unique opportunity to share our stories of Te Whanganui-ā-Tara from a Te Ātiawa/Taranaki Whānui (tribe) perspective.

Tākina – 2023

The outside of Takina convention centre.

Tākina, Wellington’s world-class Exhibition and Convention Centre, is the newest kid on the block. This spectacular new building is now open and is the most significant new building to open in Wellington since Sky Stadium was built two decades ago.

Tākina opens a new realm of possibilities for conference hosting in Wellington, with 18,000 square metres of space spanning all three floors, with capacity for up to 1,600 attendees.

Sustainability was forefront in the design process for Tākina, with the centre projected to use 60% less energy and emit 66% less carbon emissions than buildings of a similar size and function. The Māori meaning of Tākina is to encounter and invoke, to connect and to bring forth. Tākina is estimated to boost the city’s local economy by $45 million dollars each year. 

Check out 21 facts about Tākina or 10 facts about the newest LEGO® exhibition, Jurassic World by Brickman®.

Black writing on a yellow background that reads 'Positively Pōneke'.

Check other interesting articles as part of our City Building series. Or, find out more about Positively Pōneke on our website.