Reflections of Aotearoa: PeterFell’s darkest concrete oxide finds its match on North Piha Beach.

17 August 2023 / Case Studies

There’s a new surf life-saving tower on North Piha Beach. It’s circular, sculptural, made almost entirely of concrete, and coloured with PeterFell’s 699 SuperBlack oxide — a shade that speaks to the famously dark and rugged West Coast.

Amongst the black-sanded dunes of North Piha Beach, PeterFell’s 699 SuperBlack — the company’s darkest iron oxide — has played an instrumental role in the making of Te Pae Surf Life-saving Tower. Designed by Crosson Architects, the tower acts as both a sanctuary and a stage for the United North Piha Lifeguard Service.

“It had to be something that would stand the test of time both materially and architecturally — what a great brief”, shares Ken Crosson, Design Director of Crosson Architects. With this brief, Crosson and his team respectfully studied the context of North Piha, which materials would last the longest in the coastal conditions, and the arts & crafts of the local iwi, Te Kawerau ā Maki.

Early in the project, the architects decided that the building had to be concrete and chose to work with prefabricated forms as a robust yet affordable solution. And as for colour, they selected PeterFell’s darkest black iron oxide.

“There was a complexity in designing the tower”, says Crosson. “On the one hand, it had to be observable and recognisable as an observation point. But on the other hand, it was important that it blended into the landscape. And so one of our early decisions was to use a black oxide in the concrete to speak to the black sandy beach.”

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From the very start, this tower was a community project. Many donations in labour and product were gifted, including the iron oxide from PeterFell, and it’s this enormous amount of support that made the project possible.

Paul Dwight, Regional Manager for PeterFell, is immensely proud of the company’s involvement with the project. He shares, “Once we learned about the project, we were very, very proud to supply the 699 SuperBlack oxide, especially because the building is such an important structure for the Piha community”.

The value of using PeterFell’s iron oxide to colour concrete is that it’s permanent; it becomes an integral part of the concrete matrix, there’s little to no maintenance and best of all the colour will not fade. This degree of durability made the product a perfect contribution to the tower, supporting Crosson Architects’ aim of lengthening the life of the building.

699 SuperBlack, the oxide specified for Te Pae, is the darkest in PeterFell’s colour range. However, its use in the tower’s concrete isn’t overwhelmingly bold — instead, it has created a beautiful mottled effect that fits gently in North Piha’s landscape.

“The product sits perfectly within the brief, specifically with the building needing to last for a very long time while also, visually, blending in with the dark sands of the West Coast”, says Dwight. “It provides a maintenance-free concrete colour in an environment with extreme coastal conditions.”

“When you add oxide colour to concrete, it can throw many different hues. Adding SuperBlack oxide transforms the appearance significantly, eliminating the stark, light sheen and minimising glare. This specific colour additive imparts a sleek, steel-like finish to the concrete, introducing a range of captivating visual features that enhance the structure’s overall appeal. Aesthetically, it throws all sorts of different visual features to the building, and I think it’s beautiful”, Dwight smiles.

During the tower’s construction, an impressive one-and-a-half tonnes of the rich 699 SuperBlack oxide was infused into the structure, giving it a distinct character. This substantial addition ensures a deep and authentic colour saturation. “Imagine crafting a mix that isn’t just robust but also boasts a rich hue that truly stands out”, Dwight says.

Perched amongst the black-sanded dunes, Te Pae Surf Life-saving Tower has undoubtedly found its place, just as PeterFell’s 699 SuperBlack has found its match. With Piha’s dark rocky headlands and native bush forming the backdrop, the tower’s dark, cylindrical concrete appears to be of the same language. It speaks to the land that it belongs to, from the distant hilltops back down to the beach’s fine dark sands.

“I see Te Pae as an iconic building, and I think it’s going to be a focal point for locals and the wider community of Auckland”, Dwight shares. “Being part of a community project like this is a really proud moment for us.”

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Architect: Crosson Architects

Photography: Sam Hartnett

Written by: Courteney Searle, ArchiPro