To create a world-class tourism attraction from the ground up that celebrated both the natural phenomenon of the dark sky but also honoured the combination of science and indigenous culture as one.

Dark Sky Project
Dark Sky Project

Our challenge was to create a new tourism attraction from the ground up to showcase the world-renowned dark sky reserve at Lake Takapō, to recognise the work done by the University of Canterbury and to pay tribute to the significance of the night sky to local Ngai Tahu people. A fusion of science and culture. 

Playing the role of experience architect and designer, we worked collaboratively with Ngāi Tahu Tourism, Earth & Sky, The University of Canterbury, Dr Rangi Matamua and a number of local Ngāi Tahu Rununga, we explored the commonality between science and Māori culture. To honour this experience we bought together a range of strong perspectives to the project that provided  international, multicultural and highly diverse perspectives, comprising astronomer guides, local iwi, academics, astrophysicists, combined with the different skill sets from ThoughtFull, including researchers, brand experts, spatial, digital and experience designers and storytellers.

Together, we explored territories to align the team towards a common purpose. “To empower people to protect the night sky, fighting for its protection and preservation.’ This formed the inspiration for the name of the attraction - The Dark Sky Project. From here we created a strong brand identity for the attraction, along with a tour-naming strategy and proposition.

A highlight of the project was working with Māori starlore expert, Professor Rangi Matamua, whose knowledge of the way early Māori interpreted the night sky provided a truly inspiring story, which we wove through the entire experience creating a multi-dimensional depth to the attraction. We named the attraction ‘Dark Sky Project’ - a simple yet powerful name that connected immediately to the ongoing preservation and exploration of the night sky.

Our task was to create a multi-dimensional experience that spanned the branding of the building, external wayfinding and the building interior. Our work included immersive projection-based storytelling, the creation of interactive spaces, tour products, merchandising and a food and beverage offering, as well as the design and scripting of the different tours. More than just an experience, it was to become a hub for the region with a 24-hour diner, a place to spend time and to spread the message of preservation.

Dark Sky Project

The Dark Sky Project was successfully launched in July 2019 and is an example of a unique cohesion of expertise coming together for a common cause, to empower people to protect the night sky.


DesignWeekAwards (UK)
RedDot Awards (GER)
GoodDesign Awards (AU)
BestDesign Awards (NZ)

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