Writing inspirations: Wellington’s Tracy Island – er – waterfront museum

New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa – ‘our place’ – is one of the largest single structures in the southern hemisphere, replacing a Stalinesque museum from the 1940s.

The entire Te Papa complex in all its collision of styles.

From an engineering perspective it is a fantastic tour de force. It was designed for a 150-year life, meaning it had to withstand a rupture of the Wairarapa fault, the ‘big one’ that is expected to flatten Wellington. Yet it had to be built on reclaimed land. The answer was a unique base isolation system designed to float the building on lead-rubber bearings – an awesome blend of science and engineering, created right here in New Zealand by Bill Robinson.

My first effort to abstract ugly, at 24 mm focal length.

Architecturally, though, people either love it or hate it. I’m in the latter camp. It’s ugly.

Another abstraction, of sorts. Pseudo-industrial chic, or not.

To me, the building looks like a jumble of styles, thrown together in rough approximation of Tracy Island – the secret headquarters in Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds. There’s a giant round window off the main entrance for Thunderbird 3. And around the corner is the Thunderbird 2 launch ramp, complete with door.

Why have I called this a writing inspiration? Inspiration to write comes from anywhere. Inspiration is about an emotional reaction – about exploring that emotion, about translating it into your own expression.

For me, with Te Papa, it triggered a burst of photography. I thought, ‘I can make this building look attractive.’ Prowling around produced another thought. ‘No I can’t.’

The only real way to do it was abstract the whole thing – take the shapes out of the context and turn them into something else. A trick that writers use too. I thought I’d publish a selection.

Is there anything in your area you find inspiring because of the way you respond to it?

Not trying to be artistic here. This is the ‘Thunderbird 2’ ramp and rising door.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012

4 thoughts on “Writing inspirations: Wellington’s Tracy Island – er – waterfront museum

  1. Your post made me think of a gigantic overhead power line running through the city where I live. In some places the line traverse office areas, in other it passes through farmland, not taking notice of anything, it just heads on, following as it where, a predestined track, like zombies?

    The line is harsh and ugly of course, but it do also carry a strange kind of raw beauty. I would love to capture it, its hostile grossness and its metaphorical potential, in a picture, but so far I have never managed to.


    1. It is amazing how much of the modern world combines ugliness with indispensability – like power grids, which are scars on the landscape and yet so essential. Definitely a challenge to capture that in a picture!


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