June 11, 2008

The Museum Hotel

Be warned – you’ll be harassed with a barrage of backdated posts on my trip to NZ two months ago. I was in Wellington to attend a conference on diabetes, and took the opportunity to extend my trip for a holiday in the South Island with hubby and mum. The first few posts are on Wellington, followed by a chrolonogy of our trip to South Island.

I arrived in Wellington on Saturday, March 29. It was a wet day and the weather forecast predicted more rain in the next two days. The rain was very much welcomed by the people of Wellington as they have been hit by a severe draught, the worst in recent years, with not a single drop of rain over the past three months. But to us, visitors to Wellington, the rainy weather was certainly what we had hoped for, though we were prepared for its notoriously blustery winds. After all, it's not called Windy Wellington for nothing.

I stayed at the Museum Hotel, a small boutique hotel with a colourful history. It used to be known as Museum Hotel de Wheels, as it was relocated to its present site on wheel, literally. It was originally located at the opposite site of the road, at the site of the National Museum of New Zealand, the Te Papa Museum (more on this later). When the government decided to build the museum at its present site, the hotel had to be relocated. The whole building was transferred intact onto a "railway carriage", then rolling it to the other side of the road on railway tracks. It was the largest building ever relocated in New Zealand and one of very few in the world. Four months were required for the separation of the hotel from its foundation. The move itself took only 2 days. The building reached its destination in perfect condition and less than one centimetre out of line. Only five months after the project started the hotel reopened in November 1993.

Initially I couldn't imagine how this could have been done but I later learnt that many concrete buildings in New Zealand are not firmly attached to the ground due to the risk of earth quakes. Using a technique called base isolation, something flexible like rubber and lead are placed between the building and the ground. In essence, the building’s structure becomes very much a stiff box on top of horizontally flexible supports. When the ground shakes during an earthquake, the base isolators reduce the transfer of earthquake forces from the foundations to the building above. Instead of shaking severely, the building will move horizontally, thus minimizing the damage and loss of life. As such, moving the hotel simply involved detaching the building from its base isolated foundation. Cool huh?

I stayed at the Residence Wing, in a self-contained studio unit with full cooking facilities – so I've got a fully equipped kitchen complete with oven, hot plates, microwave oven, toaster, crockeries, cutleries and a dishwasher. I even have a washing machine cum dryer in the room and it was here that I used a clothes dryer for the first time in my life.

No comments: