The Dutch Connection Museum Trust engaged us to design a new national Nederlands Museum in Foxton on a suggested waterfront site, where once had operated a busy river port. However, concept analysis done by us in conjunction with Boffa Miskell proved the waterfront site to be too removed from the Main Street, which is the heart of the small township.
We felt we needed to link the Main Street to the river, but a large Mitre 10 retail barn was throttling any meaningful links.
We proposed an expansion of the programme, to incorporate a previously proposed new public library and an Iwi Art Gallery, a Whare Manaaki (maori carving school), an upgrade of the existing Flaxstripper Museum, a public Theatrette, and a centre for the local River Trust who take care of the ecological and functional use of the river. It also would incorporate a cafe and a site for the annual highly popular mural painting competition.
We ran weekend workshops with the public, out of which came an awareness of the historic importance of flax to the community (there had been 25 flaxstripping factories in the town) and also the symbolic importance of flax weaving, especially the traditional Maori mythologies associated with baskets (foodbaskets, baskets of knowledge etc).
Given the increased critical mass of the project, it became possible to propose that the problematic Mitre 10 building be incorporated. Essentially it is a traditional steel framed portal shed, concealed behind high parapets. We proposed stripping the walls and parapets from the building to expose the light steel skeleton. The frame and roof become a symbolic container under and around which the various functions of the complex gather. The large sheltering roof hovers over the new buildings, and provides a central gathering space as the new 'heart' for the community, and a place for official and random gatherings.
The various buildings have light and enthusiastic forms and colours to represent their different functions.