Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitors Centre

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Location: Waitomo

Completed: 2010


This visitor centre is the tourist gateway to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. It incorporates dining, retail, seminar and exhibition areas on an environmentally and culturally significant site.

The unique timber gridshell canopy evokes a hinaki, or Māori eel trap. Constructed from radiata LVL (laminated veneer lumber) overlaid with inflated ETFE air pillows, it is one of fewer than 10 significant gridshell structures worldwide.

Dunning Thornton combined inovative design and detailing with complex geometrical modeling and analysis to deliver this remarkable structure.

An environmentally conscious design minimised the impact on this conservation site during construction, and ensures that water flows around the cave remain as close to their natural states as practical. 

Client: Tourism Holdings Limited
Architect: Architecture Workshop
Contractor: Hawkins Construction

Images: Patrick Reynolds