Te Papa’s main building: Engineering facts

What sets our building apart? Just how many base isolators support us? How many rugby fields could you fit inside Te Papa?

Engineering facts – by the numbers

The museum:

  • took four years to complete

  • weighs 64,000 tonnes

  • has six floors

  • has 36,000 square metres of public floor space (the size of three rugby fields)

  • is made of 80,000 cubic metres of concrete

  • has enough reinforcing steel to stretch from Wellington to Sydney

  • sits on 152 base isolators to protect the building from earthquake movement

  • is clad in 14,500 grey and yellow stone panels

  • uses New Zealand–grown woods inside:native – mataī (wall panels), tawa (handrails), rewarewa (lift linings)exotic – macrocarpa (ceilings), eucalyptus (some floors).

Who owns the land Te Papa is on?

Our museum building sits on land owned by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. This comprises 2.3019 hectares.

We also lease:

  • 5,689 square metres from Wellington Waterfront Ltd on our northern and north-eastern boundaries, which includes plantings

  • two small blocks from Wellington City Council on our south-eastern corner – containing the grassed area at the corner of Cable and Barnett Streets, and a small portion of our bus lane and car park.

Te Papa’s history

Earthquake protection

Our building sits close to a major fault line on soft, reclaimed land – how do we keep our taonga and people safe?

To stabilise the site, 30-tonne weights were dropped on the ground 50,000 times – much to the dismay of nearby residents! Shock absorbers made of rubber and lead allow the building to move in earthquakes – up to half a metre in any direction.

  • In a major earthquake, Te Papa would be among the safer places in Wellington.

  • In a one-in-250-year earthquake, the building would be unharmed.

  • In a one-in-500-year earthquake, the building would need repairs.

  • In a one-in-2000-year earthquake (‘the big one’), the people and collections inside Te Papa would be safe, but the building might have to be demolished.