Waihi Gold Discovery Centre





Vision Waihi Trust







Concept & Strategy

Design & Build



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Best Design Awards Finalist 2015

The Waihi Gold Discovery Centre is a fully integrated experience. At its core was a story of the town of Waihi – history, technology and enterprise – told in a way to promote tourism in the region by showcasing the heritage landscape and attractions.


The concept for the Waihi Gold Discovery Centre was a fully integrated experience combining retail, café, i-SITE and exhibition experiences. At its core was a story about the town of Waihi – history, technology and enterprise – told in a way to promote tourism in the region by showcasing the heritage landscape and attractions.

The concept was tested with potential audiences, and the top ranking ideas were then developed as part of the Concept Masterplan.

The original concept was for a newly built structure from the road up to the edge of the big open pit mine in Waihi, but for various reasons we settled on an existing building in the town and retro-fitted it to house the experience.

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The Ghost Theatre

The Ghost Theatre was one of those concepts where we didn’t quite know how it was going to turn out until opening night. We had built Pepper’s Ghosts before, but not on this scale, or in conjunction with so many other elements of technology.

To prevent too many nervous moments at launch, we prototyped and tested it several times along the way.  The Ghost Theatre tells a love story, set in Waihi, using paintings and ghostly apparitions. The script, the set, the technology – were all developed at the same time – to see how they would all work together.

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We hadn’t ever created a full-sized Pepper’s Ghost before, but the results are fantastic, and create an original, immersive theatre experience unique to Waihi.

Gamifying history

The Two-Up Game was an interesting experiment in how far we could go in terms of telling a pretty gruesome story, at the same time introducing kids to gambling in a museum environment.

The Two-Up host invites you to play a game that was popular with miners in the 1900s. In fact this was one of the most notorious gambling pastimes in Australia and New Zealand. 

We filmed each possible sequence of coin tossing and results – and people are naturally interested to play the game to find to what happens if you lose.

We didn't need to worry about the impact on kids, the game has proved popular and they can’t keep away from it.

Modelling the Goldmining Process

We tested an early idea with visitors about modeling the process of goldmining. This was a one of the most popular concepts, so we worked through successive stages of building this up. This included a scale paper-mache model and a series of cardboard cases to get the user-experience right.

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The idea stemmed from walking through the Karangahake Gorge and Union Hill, and only seeing relics. We wanted to give a lifelike representation of what these landscapes of industry actually looked like. In that sense it also works as a device for regional tourism, showing visitors key locations in the area. 

We also wanted to model the contemporary process of goldmining – so for this we developed a LEGO concept. Even though our early sketches were quite incorrect – a mining engineer soon put us right! A few trips underground to film the machinery gave us a good insight into how it all worked.

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The Experiential i-SITE

When we developed Wellington i-SITE several years ago, we knew we were onto something good as it soon became extremely successful.

The Waihi concept is a little smaller in scale but is designed to achieve the same purpose – a light, map-centric, contextualised travel planning space.

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This completes the visitor experience in The Gold Discovery Centre as it offers a range of activities and options in the region based on the social and technological history described in the exhibition.

The i-SITE is completely integrated with the exhibition, so that the whole complex works as a system, and visitors can make the most of their trip to Waihi.