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Architects chosen for $75m gallery makeover

23 July 2004

Architects chosen for $75m gallery makeover

A trans-Tasman architectural partnership will design the Auckland Art Gallery’s $75 million redevelopment, following unanimous decisions by Auckland City’s evaluation panel and council last night.

Sydney-based FJMT (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp) and Auckland firm Archimedia will work together (as FJMT+Archimedia) with the council to develop a design for one of New Zealand’s largest heritage restoration and seismic strengthening projects.

Auckland City’s deputy mayor David Hay says the decision is a major milestone for the project, which received a $20 million commitment from the council last month.

“The Auckland Art Gallery is one of the region’s most beautiful heritage buildings and it’s a premier tourist destination as well as being loved by locals,” says Mr Hay.

“The city council is investing heavily into revitalising the CBD and we have recognised that with this seismic protection, facelift, extra space and flexibility the gallery can become the world-class gallery Auckland deserves.”

The project is similar to the highly successful Town Hall and Civic Theatre upgrades, which both required seismic strengthening and were upgraded and refurbished at the same time.

FJMT and Archimedia both have an international reputation for their work on high profile public commissions and sensitive heritage areas and have won numerous design awards.
Richard Francis-Jones from FJMT says the project team is excited to be working on this high profile project for the city.

“We have assembled an international design team which includes expertise on major public projects such as the restoration of the heritage Mint in Macquarie Street, Sydney; Auckland University’s landmark School of Business and London’s Tate Britain galleries,” says Mr Francis-Jones.

“We’re looking forward to working with Auckland City to restore this wonderful heritage building while developing a complementary, flexible, contemporary design that will offer the visitor an inspiring experience of the gallery’s art collection.”

Art Gallery director Chris Saines, who was on the evaluation panel, says while many proposals were of an impressive quality, FJMT+Archimedia were the right choice overall.

“FJMT+Archimedia were selected for their combination and depth of strong contemporary design skills, relevant heritage building and art museum expertise. The design excellence and innovation that they’ve brought to a raft of relevant public buildings in Auckland, Sydney and Canberra made them a compelling candidate in a high quality field,” says Mr Saines.

“This project poses some unique challenges. It’s a historic site in the centre of a busy CBD with the need to link the gallery with surrounding streetscape upgrades and parks. The design must combine heritage restoration with some exciting and contemporary design solutions for the newly built areas of the gallery. Getting that fit right is crucial to the project’s ultimate success. It’s also important that the design approach be environmentally sustainable.

“The evaluation panel and the council unanimously agreed that FJMT+Archimedia have the skills and experience to produce a design that meets and potentially exceeds all of these complex requirements,” says Mr Saines.

The architects and council aim to have preliminary concept designs ready for public release by March 2005. Construction is due to commence in July 2006.


- The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki is owned and operated by Auckland City and forms part of the council’s portfolio of arts, culture and recreation facilities and activities.
- It receives around 200,000 visitors each year.
- The Art Gallery development will require the gallery to be closed for up to 27 months, during which time exhibitions will continue to be held at the New Gallery.
- Studies have shown the building needs significant work to be able to withstand the predicted seismic activity in the city.
- The project combines seismic strengthening with heritage protection and improving the gallery’s size and flexibility.
- Currently, the public is missing out on seeing some of New Zealand’s best art because the gallery doesn’t have the space and flexibility it needs.
- This development means the best of the best will be out more often from the gallery’s 13,000 strong holdings.
- It will mean additional flexible spaces for family, school groups and the ability to foster new artists by having greater temporary exhibition space.
- The development is part of Auckland City’s Auckland’s CBD Into the future strategy to turn the CBD into one of the world’s most vibrant and dynamic business and cultural centres.
- The total project cost is $75 million. Funding for the project will be split between the council ($20 million), private funding and other sources.
- The evaluation panel was made up of Chris Saines (Auckland Art Gallery), Darryl Tutchen (Auckland City), Patricia Morgan (Auckland Art Gallery), Paul Ivory (Auckland City), Tom Dixon (Pepper Dixon) and Malcolm Sabourin (Carson Group).

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