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“Great architecture goes 50-50 with great art” – Len Lye

13 July 2011

“Great architecture goes fifty-fifty with great art” – Len Lye

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery announces pivotal New Zealand Government support for the proposed Len Lye Centre and launches the architectural design by Patterson Associates.

The Len Lye Centre will be a new home for the care, research, preservation and engagement with the art and ideas of pioneer New Zealand-born modernist filmmaker and kinetic artist Len Lye (1901 – 1980).

The Len Lye Collection and Archive has been cared for and exhibited by the Govett-Brewster since it was gifted by the artist to the Len Lye Foundation ‘for the people of New Zealand’ in 1980.

The Len Lye Centre project is a collaboration between the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand’s foremost contemporary art museum, its owner and operator the New Plymouth District Council, and the Len Lye Foundation.

Govett-Brewster Director Rhana Devenport says: “The Len Lye Centre/Govett-Brewster will present an outstanding combined facility in New Plymouth that will simultaneously offer an exceptional contribution to contemporary New Zealand architecture and an absolutely unique museological experience”.

“The project will formalise the entwined relationship that has existed for more than three decades between the Govett-Brewster as a space dedicated to contemporary art and culture, and the importance of the Len Lye Collection and Archive as a modernist collection of international significance,” Ms Devenport says.

“The Centre will feature exemplary exhibition spaces, a cinema, research, information and archive lounges, specialised storage facilities and education suites. The Centre will offer something absolutely unique in the world and be a catalyst for conversations about innovation with passion; valuing, art, beauty and culture; endless inquiry and transforming minds,” she says.

“Unprecedented experiences for audiences, students, researchers and the wider community will be offered from within an inspired architectural space that is truly empathetic with Lye’s explorations in light and motion.”

The momentum for the Centre accelerated with the announcement it has received support of $4 million over two years from the Government’s Regional Museums Policy for Capital Construction Costs. This was announced at the Govett-Brewster on 25 June by New Zealand’s Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, the Hon Christopher Finlayson. This support builds on significant and early support of $1 million from the TSB Community Trust in 2009.

This week the Len Lye Centre secured another half million dollar investment with a grant from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board’s Environment and Heritage Committee.

If the remainder of the fundraising is successful, the new building, adjacent and connected to the existing Govett-Brewster, is planned to start in late 2012 and be completed late 2014.

Also announced on 25 June 2011 was the design from internationally acclaimed New Zealand architects, Patterson Associates. Director Andrew Patterson said, “The nationwide selection process was the most rigorous we have encountered, with multiple interviews about our process and philosophy rather than a design competition”.

“Given the diversity of viewpoints and experience involved in this project, we immediately established a set of principles that all could agree upon for the Centre. These principles are, 1 – that it would be a place that evokes a sense of pride and identity in the local community; 2 – that it will be the best place in the world to view and appreciate the works and ideas of Len Lye; and 3 – that it would reflect the close relationship between the Len Lye Centre and the Govett-Brewster,” Mr Patterson said.

“The resulting layout was a building that allowed fluid circulation with the Govett-Brewster (itself originally a picture theatre). The Len Lye consists of two large flexible galleries, with outer public circulation ramps set around these spaces and all the public facilities such as education, cinema, storage and preparatory workshops underneath. This is wrapped in a shimmering reflective wall as an outer skin or theatrical curtain,” he said.

“Given the strength of the local dairy and oil and gas industries, it was clear that stainless steel is New Plymouth’s ‘local stone’. Using the local material engages the local economy, develops expertise and local intellectual property. In the case of the Len Lye, we have designed the building to showcase this regional expertise in a form that we expect to last 100 years or more.”

“We then began working with engineers, suppliers and fabricators on the transluminesence of light and reflectivity of stainless steel to model various ways of creating an exceptional stainless steel envelope for the building. Finally we settled on this sculptural envelope which operates like a periscope, transmitting images and working them through the building down into the circulation ramp and refracting light into the interior.

“Len Lye is synonymous with the movement of light, as projected through film and as reflected by kinetic stainless steel sculpture. We knew then that the design solution was right when it brought multiple aspects of Len Lye’s work and the community into unity with commodity and elegance.”

Patterson Associates are seen by many as New Zealand’s most internationally recognised architects. They are New Zealand’s only Architectural firm to be listed in Phaidon’s definitive 10x10 Book of the World's Emerging Architects. In early 2011, Patterson Associates was named by prestigious publication World Architecture News in their 21 for 21 program as one of five selected international architectural practices that are “set to shape the future of architecture in the 21st Century”.

Pattersons will be collaborating with New Plymouth architectural firm Chapman Oulsnam Speirs on the procurement stages of the project.

Renowned New Zealand architect Sir Miles Warren, often cited as the father of modern New Zealand architecture has said, “Patterson’s have designed a stunning building, a superb concept worthy to house and enhance Len Lye’s work”.

Meanwhile, the Govett-Brewster presents New Zealand’s most comprehensive Len Lye exhibition to date, All Souls Carnival, from 10 September to 27 November 2011. For the first time, Len Lye will inhabit all spaces of the Govett-Brewster. The exhibition, curated by Len Lye Curator Tyler Cann, will include many of Lye’s most memorable works, as well as important new reconstructions and restorations as yet unseen.


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