Architect appointed for restoration and development of Rotorua Museum

Thursday, 27 September 2018


DPA Architects, with previous experience refurbishing Rotorua Museum, has been appointed to carry out the design work for the restoration of the heritage Bath House building, with help from local firm, Carling Architects.

Rotorua Lakes Council’s Arts and Culture manager, Stewart Brown, says restoration work is due to get underway from July next year with the expectation the museum will reopen its doors in 2021.

Artist’s impression of the Museum café concept design. DPA Architects

“DPA has a track record of working on heritage buildings around the country. It is also familiar with the specific challenges of the Bath House from its time doing the heritage renovations in 1997 when they worked on the foyer, reception and some of the original baths,” he said.

Rotorua Museum, a category one heritage building in Government Gardens, closed in November 2016 following a rapid seismic risk assessment which identified the building was earthquake prone.

Mr Brown says Rotorua-based Carling Architects will have a vital ‘on the ground’ presence throughout the project, as well as providing additional architectural support.

Structural concept design for the seismic strengthening of the Rotorua Museum foyer. GDC Consultants

Since the museum’s closure a lot of work has taken place behind the scenes:

• Architectural drawings are at a concept phase
• GDCs detailed structural engineering designs, where the bulk of the work has been focused to date, are nearly complete
The project team expects to have all the design work finished early next year.

“This building is not only loved by our Rotorua community, but is nationally significant so it’s really important that we take the time to do it properly. We aim to achieve this in a way that balances respect for the building’s heritage, achieves structural strength and is practical. What we’ve learnt with this work is that what may be seen as a small change on the face of it can actually be incredibly tricky and time consuming to get right,” said Mr Brown.

“The Rotorua Bath House is one of New Zealand’s truly iconic buildings. DPA Architects are delighted to have the opportunity of overseeing this next chapter in the building’s life which will see it strengthened and refurbished for present and future generations,” said Dave Pearson of DPA Architects.

During the recent long term planning round, Rotorua Lakes Council agreed to commit $15 million towards the seismic strengthening of the Rotorua Bath House, with the balance of funds for the project to be sourced externally. The Rotorua Museum Centennial Trust, which was so successful in raising the funds to extend the building back in 2011, will once again lead the fundraising campaign.

Gallery de-install in progress. Photo courtesy of Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa

Museum staff are currently removing all remaining taonga and exhibition infrastructure from the building in readiness.

Building construction is expected to take around 18 months followed by a detailed exhibition installation programme prior to the museum being reopened to the public in 2021.

Since Rotorua Museum closed the remaining staff have continued to run numerous programmes:

• Free daily Government Gardens tours
• Its education team work at the Rotorua Library in Te Aka Mauri and provide 16 curriculum linked programmes for school students across the country
• Collection staff continue to care for more than 55,000 objects and artworks in the museum storage facility
• Its events team continue to organise events including Matariki, Nightmare at the Museum and holiday programmes


For further information:
Joanna Doherty, Business Development Manager
Arts & Culture Division, Rotorua Lakes Council
P: 07 351 7831 C: 027 272 5768 E:


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