Executive Wing (the Beehive)

New Zealand Parliament Grounds, 40 Bowen Street, 1 Molesworth Street and 1 Museum Street, Pipitea, WELLINGTON

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The Executive Wing of Parliament (commonly known as the Beehive), designed by Sir Basil Spence and the New Zealand Government Architect and constructed 1969-1981, is of outstanding heritage significance for its central role in the governance of New Zealand. As the base for the prime minister and Cabinet, business carried out in the building directly shapes the social history and development of the nation. The aesthetic, architectural and technical importance of the building’s modernist design is both special and outstanding; its unique structure has made it one of the most recognisable buildings in the country and an extraordinary physical landmark. The Beehive has outstanding currency as an iconic symbol, and its distinctive form is frequently employed to represent in shorthand the complex collection of buildings, people, policies and legislation that comprise our central government; it also contributes to the identity of Wellington city. Of great cultural importance, the Beehive can be considered a marae of the people of New Zealand. Built on land used for government purposes since Wellington’s colonial settlement in 1840, the parliamentary precinct was developed in stages after the capital was moved there in 1865. By the early 1960s the lack of space and the deteriorated and seismic-prone condition of Parliament Buildings prompted a major project to reconsider the entire precinct. The form that this should take was hotly debated, the two main options being the completion of the second wing of the neo-classical Parliament House to architect John Campbell’s original Edwardian design, or the construction of a new modern building to extend and complement the existing facilities. Government Architect Fergus Sheppard’s convincing argument for a modernist building influenced the government to invite eminent Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence to help resolve the impasse in September 1963. In March 1964 Spence presented Cabinet with sketches for a bold, round, conical tower, immediately nicknamed ‘the Beehive’, and the concept was developed by Spence and Sheppard in collaboration. Detailed working drawings were drawn up by the Ministry of Works, and construction involved a multitude of engineers, industrial designers and over 50 sub-contractors in addition to the major contractors, W M Angus Ltd and Gibson and O’Connor Ltd. Designed to house the administrative and social activities of the parliamentary executive, the Executive Wing contains ministerial office suites, the prime minister’s office, the Cabinet room, Bellamy’s catering facilities and state reception areas. The interior spaces are laid out hierarchically, with the departments of the prime minister and Cabinet on the top two floors, ministerial office suites in the conical tower of discs below, and the social and reception areas in the three storeys of the circular drum below them. A central core of lifts controls access. The entrance and public reception areas are in the rectangular podium at ground level, and underneath is the National Crisis Management Centre. Interiors were modernised and refurbished by architects Warren and Mahoney between 1998-2006, and further repairs to the roof and windows were carried out in 2013-2014. The building is visited by over 70,000 people each year, including over 13,000 school and university students and around 30,000 international visitors.

Executive Wing (the Beehive), Wellington. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org | Nick-D | 06/06/2012 | Nick-D - Wikimedia Commons
Executive Wing (the Beehive), Wellington. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com | Alex Efimoff | 11/07/2017 | ©Photographer Alex Efimoff / Alexefimoff.com
Exectutive Wing (the Beehive), Wellington. The Beehive is prominent within the Government Centre. The Government Buildings (Former) is in the left foreground, the Bowen State building sits behind the Beehive, and Parliament House is to the right | Alison Dangerfield | 03/02/2013 | Heritage New Zealand
Exective Wing (the Beehive), Wellington. Under construction, 1974. Part of the old Government House building – in use at the time as Bellamy’s – is visible in the foreground. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image | Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Able to Visit

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 2015

Date of Effect

7th July 2015

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Section 1 SO 38114 (RT 10240), Wellington Land District and the building known as Executive Wing (the Beehive) thereon, including the John Drawbridge mural in the Banquet Hall. Extent does not include the tunnel under Bowen Street that links the building with Bowen House. (Refer to maps in Appendix 1 of the List entry report for further information).

Legal description

Section 1 SO 38114 (RT 10240), Wellington Land District

Location Description

GPS Coordinates (at podium wall by main entrance): E1748836, N5428828 +/- 5m

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