First Flight – Auckland International Airport

The Auckland International Airport has a dramatic geographical context, sited on an isthmus of the northern island of New Zealand. The east coast of New Zealand receives the first light of day in terms of global time. 70% of visitors to New Zealand arrive through the portal of the Auckland Airport. The Auckland Airport landscape is a welcome to visitors, a recognition of the site’s location on the globe, and a celebration of how man has engaged with the uniquely dramatic New Zealand landscape.


The region is historically poignant— as it is the site where the Maori first arrived in waka canoes from Polynesia— transforming the landscape through the cultivation of tropical plants in stone-lined excavations. These stonesfields carved into the landscape and created sheltered, sun-warmed microclimates for cultivating the imported tropical plantings, and became a sacred typology.

The Auckland International Airport Landscape is an expression of the engagement of people and land, and celebrates the multiple histories of New Zealand’s vernacular landscape. Stone mounds reference Maori stonefields, and rise from the ground, hugging the visitor. The earthforms address on-site soils remediation and stormwater treatment, part of a larger ecological mission of the airport. Smaller, stone ‘blades’ reference the motion of a jet engine, emphasizing the excitement of arrival, travel and the cinematic choreography of modern transportation.

At a human scale, walking paths and the National Bike trail weave through the site allowing for the landscape to be experienced at a variety of vantages. This gateway landscape connects the airport to the greater New Zealand ecology, history and culture, introducing travelers to the landscape of the country even from the sky above.

Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Bespoke Landscape, Natural Habitats, Demsey Wood, Harrison Grierson
Photo Credit: Blake Marvin
Project location: George Bolt Memorial Dr., Auckland Airport, New Zealand
Design year: 2014-Current
Year Built: 2014-Current

friends and media partners