Historic Opera House wins a host of awards

Contractors, Councils and the citizens of Hawke’s Bay can be justly proud of the hard work and achievements in restoring one of New Zealand’s leading Opera Houses after years of painstaking effort.

The stage and tiered seating at Hawke's Bay Opera House.
Refurbished interior of the Toitoi Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre. Photo: supplied.expand/collapse

The restoration project has won several awards: the New Zealand Institute of Architects Heritage award in 2020, as well as a New Zealand Master Builders Commercial Projects Award and two Resene Colour Awards. 

Auckland architect, Dave Pearson of DPA Architects, was a key person in the restoration of the Opera House. He said he felt a huge sense of responsibility working on the Hawke’s Bay Opera House, recently rebranded as Toitoi Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre, because of the significance of the building to the community, its age and cultural importance.

“I have previously worked on many other significant buildings and there is always that pressure to do the building justice,” he said.

The Category 1 heritage-listed building was originally designed by Henry Eli White (1876-1952) who was also the architect of the St James Theatres in Auckland and Wellington. The opera house was designed in the Spanish Mission style and opened in 1915 as the Hastings Municipal Theatre.

Over the years, it has undergone several modifications, and following the Christchurch earthquakes, a seismic assessment of the building revealed it didn’t meet National Building Standard requirements. Specialists in heritage architecture, DPA Architects, were engaged to lead the process to upgrade the building. The practice worked closely with structural engineers, Holmes Consulting, and other contractors, to ensure the structural upgrade wouldn’t negatively impact the building’s heritage values.

Dave Pearson and his team used historical photographs to inform new colour schemes.

"We wanted a rich interior to create a sense of occasion befitting the building’s use as an opera house while still tying this in with the existing mural on the ceiling. Other parts of the building have been transformed by a palette of neutral colours, contrasting with specially designed carpets with rich tones and lavishly finished, gold-painted plaster cornices."

- David Watt