Waikowhai Coastal Walkway

 Nick McLeod, Sky High Pictures

Nick McLeod, Sky High Pictures

New Zealand’s west coast, Manukau Harbor has become more accessible than ever by building a dual cycle/pedestrian pathway along 10kms of the harbour’s shoreline.

Auckland Council wanted a contemporary design that reflected local indigenous culture. A local artist developed a bold design – weaving solid and transparent balustrade panels between wooden stanchions. The balustrades would be constructed from stainless steel with a ruby red fiberglass sandwich, traditional Tāniko patterns were laser cut into the steel work and then bonded to the red fiberglass panel, allowing natural light to pass through.   

Solid Composites played a key role in bringing this design to life; the time spent on research and development was significant. Bonding composite material to stainless steel and then bending the structure through tight curves is challenging and there is a high risk of delamination occurring.  We tested adhesives that could bond fiberglass to stainless steel with enough elasticity to bend around stanchions, and then engineered fiberglass laminate schedules and thicknesses that could reach NZ Building Code.

Countless test panels were constructed and tested. We had to work out the most effective way to laminate the red, translucent composite panels, as well as conduct multiple resin dying tests to ensure the optimum resin/dye percentages capable of producing the perfect ruby red hue.

 Designers: Henriata, Nicholas, Marc Lenton and Kim Martinengo analyze test panels

Designers: Henriata, Nicholas, Marc Lenton and Kim Martinengo analyze test panels

 Ruby red dye testing on final composite panel thickness

Ruby red dye testing on final composite panel thickness

Although accustomed to working on high performance racing boats, this unique project was an opportunity to combine creativity and artistry with our knowledge of advanced composite construction techniques.

The Waikowhai Walkway was blessed in a dawn ceremony conducted by local iwi and officially opened to the public in February 2017.  This section of the walkway is the first of many sections that will connect Onehunga with Blockhouse Bay

For us to be challenged and pushed beyond our comfort zone on this special project will be the reason this walkway and balustrades will be something for us to treasure and share with New Zealand for life.