Commercial Bay Sky Terrace + Laneways by

Public Projects / Public Projects / New Zealand / Built in 2020 /

The Commercial Bay project consists of a series of laneways and the ‘Sky Terrace’ located on the tower podium above. Our approach considers the interwoven layers of this site. These layers comprise overarching narrative and design language that communicates the geological, ecological, and cultural stories of the site and its context. This reinforces Commercial Bay’s presence at the heart of the Auckland city centre waterfront. The design concept is informed by the interaction of coastal edge ecologies (fluid) and the reclaimed city morphology (grid). A generative design strategy has been used to inform shape, topography, and arrangement of elements, capturing the dynamic interface and working systems of the former coastal edge zone through a range of episodic experiences within a cohesive whole.

Sky Terrace_

A distinctive urban rooftop landscape that connects historic processes of reclaiming the city from the ocean, with a contemporary process of ‘raising the city to the sky’. The Sky Terrace combines three spaces in one – the main ‘terrace’ (north), ‘social’ and ‘garden’ rooms flanking the tower to the east and west. The ground plane establishes a singular connective surface; an abstract ‘graphic field’ derived from the volcanic geology beneath this site, and visible in the forms of islands on the harbour beyond. The garden is conceived as an authentic ecology, reintroducing rare and endangered native plant species typical of cliff tops into the city’s public realm.


Carefully articulated ‘sculptural’ furniture elements have been adapted through a parametric design process which is informed by the coastal environment. The bespoke furniture recalls crafted timber forms of both indigenous and contemporary boat building technologies. A combination of surfaces, architectural frames, moveable furniture, lighting and technology enables a flexible and adaptable space to be appropriated for a range of events and activities supporting a contemporary workplace.


The laneways within the shopping precinct provided the opportunity to incorporate cultural references within the ground plane; an expression of what lies beneath revealed in the surface. With the name of each lane relating to specific moana (oceans or water bodies) according to directional bearing, the design concept for the paving plane references aramoana; the idea of arrival, departure, navigation and journey by sea. This is expressed as a distributed, mixed and perturbed ‘surface’ of paving stretching between the four points of entry. Variations in the distribution of the pattern create wave like effects, and interpretations of light glinting off water. An angular paving unit relates these notions back to traditional tukutuku panels and woven media. The distribution of the pattern serves a secondary purpose; informing wayfinding through the site. The primary east/west movement route from Auckland’s central train station reads in clear contrast with the north/south lane, which provides a more intimate journey of discovery and restores a lost historic route between Custom’s Street and the water’s edge.


An authentic, indigenous vegetation palette of vascular epiphytes, holo-epiphytes, vines, creepers, climbers and pendant plants create a vertical landscape composed from the forests of Waitematā and Waitākere. The hanging gardens and vertical greening propose to incorporate a ‘rare native’ palette reflecting the sites coastal forest and Queen Street valley/ Wai Horotiu stream context.

The project required extensive research and development of green technologies and methods unique to the New Zealand context. The rooftop landscape, green walls and hanging gardens enable and contribute to on-site rainwater harvesting and re-use and have supported the wider Commercial Bay project receiving both ‘design’ and ‘as-built’ 5 star Green Star ratings.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Warren & Mahoney

Project location: Commercial Bay, 7 Queen Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010

Design year: 2017

Year Built: 2020


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