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The Twilight Te Ao Māhina

This project refreshed Wellington Zoo’s nocturnal house experience, The Twilight Te Ao Māhina. The brief involved highlighting the quirky nature of New Zealand’s endangered species and sharing the Zoo’s conservation stories.


The key to this site was making the space feel welcoming, warm and exciting while helping visitors transition into the dark, quiet environment. We developed a sense of immersion into the gloaming period of the day, where visitors could encounter the animals that had just woken for a night of activity.

On entry, large coloured acrylic/corten steel panels guide people to the entry of the The Twilight Te Ao Māhina. Using a combination of uplighting, gobos, and stylised forest panelling we recreated the sense of twilight. Dappled light from the gobos together with programmed strip LEDs added texture and brought the entryway to life.

Once inside, visitors move through three zones. The first introduced visitors to the stars of the show, kiwi and tuatara, beautifully illustrated in a lightbox mural wall. Zone one is a content rich area, where visitors can engage with stories of kiwi, tuatara and the conservation work of the Zoo. Zone two encourages visitors to slow down, with hints and tips helping them to get the best out of the nocturnal experience. The third zone is a live display of kiwi, where we designed infographic type panels to encourage visitors to learn while trying to find the kiwi through the darkness.

The transformation in experience has been... illuminating. What was a dark and challenging place for visitors, has been refreshed into a rich storytelling space that celebrates Aotearoa New Zealand’s most iconic animals.