The new proposal for Russell Museum Te Whare Taonga o Kororāreka will involve significant remodelling of the existing museum building, adding community facilities and exhibition space to showcase nationally significant stories, artefacts and objects.
In 2017, Isthmus was appointed as project Architects by the Russell Centennial Trust Board, and tasked with designing a new museum to replace the existing facilities.
At the outset Isthmus held a series of workshops with the museum trust, library staff, iwi, stakeholders and the local community to establish common values, principles and aspirations that would later underpin the design concept.
Russell Museum Te Whare O Kororāreka is envisioned as a place to bring together the community, locals and tourists. A place that embodies manaakitanga. A place to accommodate a multitude of activities and events, highlighting its location adjacent to Kororāreka Marae, Tamati Waka Nene Reserve, and the Russell beachfront.
Isthmus gathered a deep understanding of the cultural narratives of the site and place through a collaborative process with iwi, the Russell Museum Trust and the local community—all of whom have emphasised a commitment to both collective cultural outcomes and the promotion of the museum’s core aspirations for dual heritage and a shared future.
A sensitivity to the context and scale developed as a response to the museum’s location within the Heritage Precinct of Russell township. Accessed from The Strand the unique beachfront path lined with pohutukawas follows the pattern of the established buildings, like boats pulled up on the shore, creating links and laneways to the town beyond. Historically, arrival was by sea as part of the traditional Pacific trade route and this continues to be the main access for visitors, locals and tourists.
Two timber gabled forms maintain a strong connection to the maritime heritage and character of Russell, while offering alternative interpretations and possibilities to reflect the cultural histories of the place in a contemporary manner.
Careful articulation of frontages, modulation of form, materials and textures help to scale and proportion the building as a whole. Materials are left natural—the timber unstained, natural finished concrete, and leaving surfaces to be engraved (concrete panels) or carved (timber panels) to depict the story and history of Russell, from the outside in.