Coast |

Te Whare Taonga o Kororāreka.
Russell Museum.


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.

Above The Russell Centennial Trust Board was established to mark the 1940 Centennial of the Treaty of Waitangi. The vision was a building to house a Town Council office, library, restroom and a museum. Various additions to the museum have accrued over the years, the most notable being the exhibition room for the 1:5 scale model of the Endeavour in 1969.

Right Consideration was given to the museum’s prominent location ‘bookending’ the town centre, how the museum could herald the entry to Russell from both land and sea, and the best way to encourage movement and connection between the network of cultural and heritage sites within Russell.

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.

Right Waka Huia, a traditional treasure container, became a natural point of reference for the design.

Below The idea of a storehouse was conceived through a series of workshops. Through articulation of form and scale, the ‘storehouse’ becomes responsive to the surrounding site and takes on the form of a boatshed.

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.

Stretch, Scale and Inflect.
A series of simple moves held to shape the ‘container’ based on content and context.

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.

Maritime history and its enduring traditions, from the earliest voyaging waka of Māori almost 1000 years ago to the later arrival of The Endeavour, tell the history of Russell Kororāreka, with stories of voyages, ship, trade, and early encounters.

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.

The surrounding open spaces and mature trees at each frontage allow the building to sit comfortably within its context and location at the edge of town.

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.

Team Members
Nada Stanish, David Irwin, Andre de Graaf,
Past Team Members

Adelle Hammond
Alistair Luke
Ginny Pedlow

LMD Planning Consultants
Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga
Kororareka Marae

The Russell Centennial Trust Board