BOP spa a finalist for World Architecture Awards

Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa front entrance. Supplied photos.

Rotorua’s Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa is being nominated as a finalist at the World Architecture Festival 2024.

Designed to combine Rotorua’s natural geothermal resources with traditional Ngāti Whakaue wellbeing practices, the unique spa will now go up against some of the world’s most innovative projects in the WAF Completed Buildings – Hotel and Leisure category.

The winners at the world’s largest architecture awards will be announced in Singapore in November.

Developed by Pukeroa Lakefront Holdings Limited (PLHL) and designed by RCG, Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa has already hosted thousands of manuhiri (visitors) since it opened in June last year.

PLHL Chairman, David Tapsell, is proud of the international attention Wai Ariki is receiving and says to be shortlisted is already a win for everyone involved, including PLHL, the Wai Ariki team, spa manager Belgravia, designers RCG, Ngāti Whakaue, and the wider Rotorua community.

“Wai Ariki lives and breathes through an innovative, authentic design that’s specific to our rohe, envisioned by the minds of Ngāti Whakaue mana whenua, and delivered by Kiwi architects. This latest recognition places it on a pedestal in front of the world.

“We are proud to deliver an experience that is tightly woven with who we are as Ngāti Whakaue, and to be able share our unique heritage and manaakitanga with the world in this way. In turn, we are extremely proud of the future outcomes it will deliver for our whānau, both now and into the years ahead.”

Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa geothermal pools – part of Wai Whakaora – Restorative Journey experience.

Inspired by Ngāti Whakaue cultural narratives, the physical design of Wai Ariki is infused with local whakairo (Māori carvings) and designs, while reflecting the volcanic colour palette of the surrounding rohe.

Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa General Manager, Debbie Robertson, says the building itself is an important part of the Wai Ariki experience, highlighting and reinforcing the Ngāti Whakaue legacy.

“Our spa experiences are inextricably linked with the physical space, with each drawing from and supporting the other as manuhiri experience Wai Ariki, the indigenous spa treatments, natural mineral waters, and the Ngāti Whakaue story that underpins every part.

“We know from our manuhiri – and especially those that have visited spa destinations overseas – that they see and feel the cultural nuance throughout, and as a result, they feel it is vastly unique to anything they have seen or experienced before.

“This is the feeling that everyone involved has worked so hard to bring together, and the Wai Ariki team have the privilege of being on the frontline to see manuhiri experience it firsthand.”

Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa – Āhuru Mōwai – Spa Sanctuary.

Architecture and design firm, RCG, , is thrilled to see the kaupapa being widely recognised both nationally and internationally.

RCG Director, John Lenihan, says Wai Ariki was close to his heart from the beginning.

“We were given the wero (challenge) , guided by PLHL, to create a culturally, architecturally, experiential and beautiful space, offering manuhiri visiting Wai Ariki a visual and sensory experience like no other.

“The goal was to seamlessly blend Ngāti Whakaue's rich cultural heritage and healing practices with breathtaking, indigenously driven design. We’re delighted with how people are responding to it and the awards that have already been received, and look forward to showcasing Wai Ariki on the world stage later this year.”

Find out more about the awards here.


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