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Take a peek inside Chelsea Sugar’s scrumptious new digs

12 Jun 2020

Since 1884, Chelsea Sugar has been a staple in New Zealand pantries. However, its iconic pink factory, which is tucked away on Auckland’s North Shore, has been closed to the public for the past 30 years. Thanks to their brand new interactive Visitor Centre, which opened in 2018, Chelsea Bay now provides an immersive journey for children and adults alike to look back into baking and food production and understand how ingredients get from field to table.

“The project has taken more than 10 years to become a reality, and it has been very well received by the public,” says Luke Henty, Associate Architect with Beca. His team led the design for the new facility.

Behind the pohutukawa trees that line the coast, the centre’s low profile weaves itself around the operational molasses tank, over a bund to meet the 1950s carpenter’s workshop, which features a gabled sawtooth roof built around a timber superstructure. The design team made it their focus not just to integrate this historic piece of architecture, but to embrace it.

In the end, it was the carpenter’s workshop that drove the entire design narrative of the new structure through the height and sweep of the building’s roof form – and it is this space that now houses Chelsea's state-of-the-art Baking and Education School.

“We designed the extract system to be oversized and playful, with large industrial bell mouth extract cowls that we painted the most intense vibrant Resene colours we could find,” explains Luke. “The goal was to have fun while passively nodding toward the iconic brand colours of both Chelsea and Edmonds. Resene Scrumptious is a vibrant take on ‘Chelsea pink’ while Resene Juicy is expressed as a fresh take on ‘Edmonds Orange’.”

In fact, vibrant colour and texture play a big role in defining each of the major zones within the facility, from the entry and foyer, to the interactive centre, to the popular destination café, Sugar (which features Resene Magnolia and Resene Lilac Bush).

When it came to the staging area, the design team prepared the interior walls for the potential of a bit of rough and tumble – the kind one might expect in an area where primary school students muster while they await the start of their tour. “We fitted them with vertical pine timber battens stacked tightly to form a vertical finished surface. The red-orange hues of Resene Colorwood Oregon was chosen to provide warmth in what is otherwise a moody room,” says Luke.

The new roof and glazed fins that it sits atop offer a transparent view through the building and out onto its surroundings. The hard and soft landscaping serve as a soft screen to the operative administration building while allowing glimpses through to the wider factory, a playground and Waitemata Harbour’s stunning coastal edge.

While the initial target for visitors was projected at 68,000 annually, it’s no wonder that the updated projections for this unique education destination put the visitor count much higher.

The sawtooth roof of the 1950s Carpenter’s Workshop – which now houses the Baking and Education School at Chelsea Bay Visitor Centre – informed the new building’s roof design and general shape.

Lighting plays an important role in making the entry and foyer area especially inviting, as does the colour selection. The timber battens are stained in Resene Colorwood Oregon, which was selected for its warmth. Resene Aquaclear was used to seal the timber ceiling.

Inside the Baking and Education School, accents in Resene Scrumptious and Resene Juicy pay homage to Chelsea’s and Edmonds’ signature brand colours.

Resene Colorwood Oregon was the stain of choice for timber elements within the facility for its warmth and red-orange hue.

Sugar, the café at the Chelsea Bay Visitor Centre, features walls in Resene Magnolia with accents in Resene Lilac Bush and looks out over Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. The ceiling is clear coated with Resene Aquaclear.

The safety jackets, which are worn by visitors during the tours, are almost an exact match to Resene Scrumptious, which was used in the Baking and Education School for its likeness to ‘Chelsea pink’.


design Beca Architects

images Lachezar Karadzhov

builder NZ Strong

heritage architect Salmond Reed

installation consultants Art of Fact