Quake Braker exhibition video


Since opening, Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s bold and innovative national museum, has attracted worldwide acclaim and record visitor numbers. But, given that Wellington lies close to major fault lines, how safe will this five-storey, 50,000 tonne building be in a major earthquake? Te Papa is a bicultural institution so ensuring that the correct tikanga (or Māori protocol) was followed during its construction was considered as important as employing technology to make the building safer. Before construction began the Te Papa site was blessed by members of the local iwi in order to whakawātea (or clear) the site The mana whenua (people) have come and cleared the site and then replaced it with those kinds of things that will help the whole project move forward from now. The sorts of statements that ceremony made about how we feel about the whole process of this project the people who work here looking after them, looking after the building looking after the whole project, looking after the treasures is just very good very good signal. The unwanted, you might say remnants, of others from the past have been either removed or appeased and in that sense it makes it safe for all the people who have that kind of feeling Te Papa stands on reclaimed land when construction began, the soil was soft and loosely packed Well, the soils that were on the site are reclaimed soils and they had never been compacted when they’d been put there they just had been tipped off the back of trucks or whatever Tests show that in a large earthquake this soil could turn to liquid but engineers came up with an ingenious solution by dropping weights from various heights the ground could be stabilised this process was called ‘dynamic consolidation’ The very first drop saw the rope attached to the weight break was this a bad sign? Kaihautū Cliff Whiting considered this a good omen and likened it to the Māori tradition of giving away the first fish caught to Tangaroa, the God of the Sea I’m pleased to see that the first drop was given away, that the rope did what it did and it was given away because that’s a really tremendous omen And so it proved to be after three months of dynamic consolidation the ground was sufficiently stabilised for construction to begin We dropped these weights something like over 50,000 times and created something like over 50,000 mini-earthquakes in Wellington and I felt near all of them However, even with the ground stabilised the site was an earthquake risk Fortunately, some Kiwi ingenuity provided a solution Te Papa lies on a large concrete slab placed between this slab and the building are 152 base isolators made of rubber, steel and lead How do these base isolators work? When a building is directly attached to the ground during an earthquake it shakes with the same severity as the ground but if it stands on base isolators, it shakes much more slowly while the isolators cause the building to shake a longer distance it shakes more gently so less damage is caused to the people and contents inside The base isolators Te Papa stands on are made of rubber with laminated steel and lead inside when a quake strikes, the isolators move sideways the lead cylinders inside the isolators stop the building from swaying too far and heat up as they absorb some of the energy of the quake pure lead is used as it doesn’t lose its strength as it changes shape Invented by Kiwi, Dr William Robinson the Te Papa lead-rubber isolators underwent extensive testing to ensure that they were strong enough to withstand a major quake But while base isolation makes Te Papa a lot safer it doesn’t make the building totally earthquake-proof So, the once-in-250-year earthquake, the museum is designed to escape virtually unscathed the once-in-500-year earthquake, there will be some damage which is easily repairable the once-in-2000, what we call the ‘maximum credible’ earthquake for Wellington it is designed to protect the treasures, protect the people so that they can get out, but the building may not survive By following the correct tikanga (or Māori protocol) and by using the latest earthquake technology Te Papa has ensured that the building standing above us is a safe and happy place it’s a building of which all New Zealanders can be proud

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