The dramatic landscape leading to the Auckland International Airport, designed by San Francisco-based Surfacedesign, has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize. Known as First Flight, it is the only airport landscape being recognized.

The awarding of the Rosa Barba prize is a highlight event during the 12th Barcelona International Landscape Biennial, which will take place on November 27th and 28th at the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona.

During the first two days of this important symposium, 11 finalists will present their projects to a jury of landscape professionals, providing an in-depth explanation of the design process, technical improvements, challenges faced, and key concepts. After all finalists present their work, the winner will be announced on the evening of Tuesday the 28th at the Award Ceremony in the palace.

James A. Lord, a founding partner of Surfacedesign, “We are honored to be selected as finalists for the Rosa Barba Award and proud to share First Flight’s important cultural and historical context with an international audience at the Biennial.”

About First Flight
Auckland International Airport is strategically located where the Maori first arrived in waka canoes from Polynesia, transforming the landscape through the cultivation of tropical plants in stone-lined excavations that became a sacred typology. Centuries later, European immigrants further modified the landscape by cultivating orchards and timber trees, protecting the crops from the harsh climate via planted hedgerows. Both the Maori and European settlers dramatically shaped the New Zealand landscape.

The airport landscape is an expression of this history; it celebrates New Zealand’s vernacular landscapes as it references Maori stonefields and hedgerows that overlay these mounds. The earthforms serve a dual purpose as they address on-site soils remediation and stormwater treatment, part of a larger ecological mission of the airport.

Surfacedesign organized small, stone ‘blades’ that reference the motion of a jet engine and emphasize the excitement of arrival, travel, and cinematic choreography through the airport landscape. Native New Zealand grasses soften the blades and connect them to the regional landscape. A spectrum of colors are pulled from the dramatic New Zealand landscape, from Hukafalls to the volcanoes in Auckland, welcoming travelers to the landscape of the country as they arrive.

The First Flight landscape has previously been recognized at the ASLA Design Awards and by the Chicago Athenaeum. The project has also been published internationally.