Auckland’s ‘robot llama’ shortlisted for international architecture award


A new lifeguard watchtower at Auckland’s Piha Beach has been shortlisted for an international architecture award.

The north Piha watchtower, named Te Pae, divided public opinion when its brutalist design was released in 2020. It was completed in June.

Crosson Architects has been shortlisted at the World Architecture Festival Awards for the watchtower design, which has been described by neighbours as looking like a “robot llama”.

The World Architecture Festival is the world’s largest festival and live awards competition dedicated to architectural excellence across the globe, according to its website.

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The festival will take place in Lisbon, Portugal from November 30-December 2.

Architect Ken Crosson said to be shortlisted for the awards was a “bit of a surprise” and he was delighted to see the tower nominated.

The new Surf Lifesaving tower at north Piha Beach was opened in June.

David White/Stuff

The new Surf Lifesaving tower at north Piha Beach was opened in June.

Crosson said there were always mixed feelings about new buildings that were a little “interesting or challenging”.

“Sometimes people want to be in this time warp where nothing ever changes but this design is really about protection for lifeguards and those enjoying the beach.

“This was an enjoyable project and it was awesome to work with so many lovely people at the surf club.”

On the watchtower’s entry page, it said the brief was for a robust low-maintenance building that could withstand the severe coastal environment.

It said the black oxidised concrete used on the tower was meant to reference the fact the beach had black sand.

“The distinctive form sits in contrast to the beautiful, rugged backdrop. The tower is sustainable and provides shelter and protection for the lifeguards.”

Hannah Neville, who can see the new watchtower from her home, earlier said she “actually really likes” how it looks.

“When the design first came out I wasn’t a fan, but seeing it now, I think it’s beautiful.”

Neville said she looked at the watchtower every day and found it funny that people seemed to have negative opinions on how it looked.

“We call it the robot llama, because it looks like a little llama head popping out of the ground when we see it from our place.”

Crosson said he was “fully onboard” with the robot llama nickname for the tower and said it was interesting hearing how people interpreted and saw buildings.

The watchtower is part of a $4.3 million project to renew the surf club facilities at Piha.

Te Pou, the new surf lifesaving clubhouse, is due to be constructed later this year.



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