Capturing the mana of the maunga

Client: Tūpuna Maunga Authority


TMA Boards

A new information centre on Mt Eden tells the story of Maungawhau Mt Eden in the context of the sacred volcanoes (maunga) of Auckland.

The Brief

The Tūpuna Maunga Authority asked us to tell the story of Maungawhau and create an experience told from a distinct Māori perspective, that draws international and local visitors in to see, hear and feel the geological, archaeological and spiritual significance of the site.

The Solution 

Working with an archaeologist, geologist and numerous local iwi leaders and advisors, we immersed ourselves into Tamaki Makaurau’s story. With this new knowledge, we developed a user flow for the story that moves visitors logically around a relatively tight space. The story starts at present time Mt Eden, before taking visitors back in time, moving them around 14 maunga and bringing them back to the café and gift shop next door. 

The overall look and feel was inspired by the colours of volcanic rock, lava and the rolling green slopes of Maungawhau. The typography was designed to speak to traditional Māori patterns, incorporating symbolism for the unity of tribes who share ownership of the maunga.

The visitor experience starts outside the space, in the café, with a striking modern interpretation of a pā palisade. This culturally significant entrance speaks to pre-European life on Maungawhau and provides an inviting traditional welcome to visitors. 

Just inside the entrance is a conceptual model of Mt Eden, offering a 360 view of Mt Eden’s natural features. The model is also the trigger for an immersive augmented reality experience. IPads pointed at the model take visitors back 28,000 years to experience the eruption that formed Maungawhau Mt Eden. A second AR experience allows visitors to explore a detailed pā settlement, capturing what life may have been like on here 300 years ago. A further experience allows visitors to explore the mountain, clicking in to find out about its recent European history.

Beyond the AR experience, visitors follow a series of engaging information panels from one end of the room to the other where a theatre room plays an epic video on the spiritual significance of the maunga of Auckland. Shot by drone, with a high-end finish, the video shows the majesty and dominance of maunga in Auckland’s skyline. Overlaid with a haunting soundtrack and the engaging storytelling voice of a local elder, this stunning video draws visitors into Auckland’s story – from Maui through to the recent return, by the Crown, of the maunga to local iwi. 

Inspired visitors leaving the video room are presented with information about the historic tea room they are in, followed by information about local art and food. These last two panels drive visitors to the adjacent gift shop and the local food inspired café.

The Results

The client is delighted at the immersiveness of the experience and the way a multi-layered story interweaves across mediums to leave visitors spiritually moved. The information centre is attracting big visitor numbers, tremendous feedback and the praise of local iwi and government and tourism authorities.