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Waitomo Caves Visitor Centre
Waitomo, Aotearoa New Zealand

Project Team

Landscape Architect :  Wraight + Associates
Architect :  Architecture Workshop
Client :  Tourism Holdings Ltd, Department of Conservation
Project Status: Completed

The landscape design for the visitor centre at Waitomo Caves embraces the inside-outside dichotomy of the iconic award winning building. The new landscape scheme draws upon the existing site’s assets, an impressive forest rich in vegetation and a unique geo-morphology of which stone outcrops are a significant feature. These qualities underpin the detailing and manifestation of the site’s key facilities which include: visitor parking areas and drop off ; external spaces; pathways; associated site furniture; signage; and lighting. The proposed structures are functional, robust, legible and relate to the language of the visitors centre and overall caves aesthetic.

Project Objectives

  • The integration of the new visitors’ centre within its distinctive landscape context
  • An amplified visitor experience that engages visitors from the moment they leave their car
  • Provide outdoor seating area and spill-out space.

Key features

  • A coordinated sequence of experience: the approach from the distant to the local; the arrival; the entry and the tasting.
  • A distinctive landscape character and structure that references the horticultural context of the site and reinforces its natural assets.
  • The landscape geometry is one of uncomplicated but definitive lines that work with the repetition of the horticultural landscape and industrial functions of the winery buildings.



  • The landscape design considers environmental sustainability approaches with regional native planting set amongst existing native plants and trees and on developed areas.



  • The delineation between building and landscape is obscured, a living ponga wall drawn through the building’s belly, shifts perception of what is outside and what is inside The project highlights a distinctive and innovative response: the wall utilises ponga logs that soldier their way beneath the ceiling canopy – a vegetal element that is both structured and soft. An clear link to the exterior forested landscape, the wall supports a collection of NZ epiphytes which imbue the space with an almost prehistoric quality.