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Wētā Workshop Wins Third International Award for Aura: The Forest at the Edge of the Sky

Weta Workshop LBE Tree Dear

Wētā Workshop has just been awarded the Themed Entertainment Association Thea Award for Immersive Mall Experience for Aura: The Forest at the Edge of the Sky at the Haikou International Duty-Free Shopping Complex, Hainan, China, which is the largest Duty-Free shopping centre in the world.

The Thea Awards recognise the top international themed entertainment and retail projects including theme parks, exhibitions, museums and retail spaces, and was held in Los Angeles on Saturday 16 March, 2024.  This is the third global accolade for the project, and the third Thea Award win for Wētā Workshop, which has been previously recognised for Gallipoli: The Scale of our War in 2017, and Wētā Workshop Unleashed in 2021.  

Aura: The Forest at the Edge of the Sky, is an innovative multisensory experience housed within a colossal five-storey high, and 50-meter-wide atrium. As visitors move through the space they are immersed in a fantastical environment of sound, music and lighting, all working in harmony to tell the story of a journey into a magical world that celebrates the natural beauty and ecology of Hainan.

Weta Workshop LBE Tree Dear
Weta Workshop Tree of Light LBE

Creative Director and CEO of Wētā Workshop, Richard Taylor, says "Myself and our team at Wētā Workshop along with our construction partner Dafeng (from Hangzhou) are so thrilled that Aura: The Forest at the Edge of the Sky has received this honour, but what has been even more rewarding is seeing the warm response from visitors and the real measurable impact that this project has had for Hainan.”

Conscious of today’s dominance of online shopping, Aura: The Forest at the Edge of the Sky sought to create a retail experience that would capture the imagination of consumers. It has since welcomed more than 4.5 million visitors since opening in October 2022, and has seen Hainan’s offshore duty -free shopping grow by 72.5 per cent.

“It was so important for us to create something unexpected, and we did this by treating people not as observers, but active participants in this experience. I believe this win demonstrates that there is immense value in creativity and innovation across all aspects of modern living,” Taylor adds.

Guests can journey up through the building by stepping on to the 'Sky Escalator' - a beautiful tunnel of light and sound, set within a giant fallen tree trunk. There is a 35-metre tall 'Tree of Light' made of 5,000 hand-crafted opalescent orbs, which are lit by 12,500 individually controlled LED lights. These lights are activated as guests move around the tree via a giant interactive spiral staircase. A five-story LED screen rises up through the atrium, inspiring fantastical stories of Hainan by way of an exhilarating media show. The display is synchronised across the entire atrium space, wows the audience, and adds to the magical illumination within this sophisticated, yet delightfully playful environment. The project was a collaborative effort with the client, China Duty Free Group (CDF), and construction partner, Dafeng.

Weta Workshop Tree of Light LBE
Weta Workshop Tree Haikou

Andrew Thomas, Senior Creative Director of Location Based Experiences, Wētā Workshop says, “Aura: The Forest at the Edge of the Sky was a huge opportunity for Wētā Workshop to apply our creative thinking to a space that’s not typically seen as an entertainment destination.”

“We were inspired by Hainan’s own natural and cultural environment to create a rich, multi-dimensional location-based experience that has lifted the game globally for modern retail experiences,” Thomas adds.

Aura: The Forest at the Edge of the Sky at the Haikou International Duty-Free Shopping Complex, Haikou, China has also been awarded the Blooloop Themed Environment Award 2023, the Trinity Award for Non-Airport Retailer of the Year, and Best Commercial Complex of the Year – Platinum Award at the GBE HOPSCA Awards 2022-2023.

Wētā Workshop continues to grow its location-based experiences globally with significant projects in New Zealand, China, Europe and the Middle East.

Weta Workshop Tree Haikou