For most of its history the America’s Cup yacht race took place on offshore courses far from the viewing public, but recent race organizers wanted to transform it into a spectator sport. When the 36th America’s Cup took place in New Zealand last March, visitors could, for the first time, watch the race from viewing spots in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter, a reclaimed piece of land on Waitemata Harbour.
At the heart of Wynyard Quarter stands a large, angular shade sail structure built to honor the history and traditions of the Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand. The project was part of a larger program to upgrade the infrastructure of Wynyard Quarter in preparation for the yacht race.
Called Te Nukuao, the sail structure is a large public art installation, designed by artist Tessa Harris, who took inspiration from waka-hourua, the twin-hulled sailing canoes said to have brought the original Maori settlers to New Zealand in the 1300s. The structure itself was considered a framework to celebrate the traditional Maori craft of weaving.
The asymmetric nature of the structure meant that sail panels had to be cut in varying shapes. Dave Giddens Sailmakers loaded the plans for the structure into CAD, which ran numerous iterations of the irregular panel layout to achieve the best possible fabric yield.
The structure was installed two weeks before a planned powhiri (a Maori welcoming ceremony of speeches, cultural performances, singing and more) to celebrate the completion of infrastructure upgrades for the yacht race. Today, the public continues to use the structure as a place to shelter from the weather and admire as a work of art.
The project was recognized as a 2021 Award for Excellence Winner—Tension Structures & Canopies 51-100 square meters by OFPANZ, the Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand.
Structure: Te Nukuao
Built by: Dave Giddens Sailmakers, Auckland, NZ
Material used: Hiraoka Sundream
Fabric Supplied by: W. Wiggins, Ltd., Christchurch, NZ
Components Supplied by: Fineline Marine, Auckland, NZ
Fabrication Company: McConnell Dowell, NZ