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Waihi Gold Discovery Centre Concept

This concept for a large-scale visitor attraction is our benchmark for a process that ensures the experience is entertaining, viable and provides tangible economic and cultural benefit to local communities.


We were brought in to re-conceptualise an earlier idea for a new visitor attraction in Waihi. As with many of our larger projects this involved approaching the project as part of a team. We worked with Visitor Solutions who established a strong research and business case base for the project, Ken Gorbey, Museum Consultant who provided management guidance and peer-review, Day Brown Architects and MPM Project Management Consultants.

This team approach is essential for large projects ($2M+) that require a solid business foundation to ensure the viability of the tourism enterprise, and also the technical development of a concept to ensure the visitor experience works within the spaces and environments being constructed.

The initial round of conceptualising involved developing a series of quick ideas based on the storylines and objectives of the centre. The brief was to develop a concept that encompassed both contemporary and heritage gold-mining, and also worked as a hub for the local tourism industry. The project also had to be developed within a realistic budget, as the return on investment needed to be as rapid as possible to make the enterprise viable.

We sketched a selection of visitor experiences that we knew would appeal to a range of visitor types and interests. We then created a set of hypothetical visitor diaries which were used as part of the user-testing process. This approach is a core part of our methodology as it enables clients to see quickly what will and won’t work as part of a concept. It also helps us establish a media mix for a project and to determine a visitor flow system.

In addition to the interpretive elements we also sketched a range of thematic visitor products and attractions to complement the exhibition – retail, café, iSITE and a Flying Fox! This thematic work became integral to the later design, as a way of differentiating the Waihi experience from other gold and mining related destinations.

From the user-testing we solidified the concept and worked with the team to create an architectural, visitor experience and business masterplan that was the basis of securing funding for the project and as a platform for design and build.

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