Waitomo Caves

  • Date
  • 2010
  • Location
  • New Zealand, Waitomo
  • Size
  • 1,846 m²
  • Sector
  • Cultural
  • Structure
  • Wood
  • Application
  • Roofs
  • Architect
  • Architecture Workshop


The Waitomo Glowworm Caves attraction on the North Island of New Zealand, where visitors can take boat rides into the spectacular cave guided by the light from thousands of glow-worms – Arachnocampa luminosa. The Waitomo Caves were formed from limestone transported by water over thousands of years and have been a popular tourist destination for over 125 years – attracting up to 500,000 visitors per year. The original visitor centre was damaged by a major fire in 2005 causing a huge economic blow to the local community. The design of the new Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre was an opportunity to showcases how engineering, the environment and local culture can fuse together in harmony.


Vector Foiltec worked closely with Architects and Structural Engineers to develop the form of the canopy which is aligned with the curve of the Waitomo stream. Historically, and the redevelopment of the original Waitomo Caves Visitor Centre showcases how engineering, the environment and local culture can be fused together.


The structure of the new entrance canopy comprises prefabricated interwoven pine laminated veneer lumber (LVL) grid with a beautiful Texlon® ETFE cladding system that follows LVL ribs in alignment with the curve of the Waitomo stream. The Inflated Texlon® ETFE panels spanning 4 – 5 m are structurally efficient in spans of 4-5m and were tethered over the gridshell structure. The canopy provides shelter to visitors entering and exiting the caves.


The Waitomo Glowworm Caves visitors centre was awarded the prestigious Architecture, Commercial Engineering Excellence and the Clever Solution Awards at the Timber Design Awards in October 2010 – a truly deserving winner!



Main Image: © Vector Foiltec