One law of film making is that every great movie has an even better sequel – sometimes more. For proof, look no further than Meet the Fockers, Rocky V, and Police Academy: Mission to Moscow.
So it would be remiss of us not to follow suit and write a sequel to our earlier post on the New Zealand Architecture Awards. Last Friday, you see, the New Zealand Institute of Architects announced the winner of their supreme award, aka the New Zealand Architecture Medal. This year’s recipient is the very awesome Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.
The architects who did the design work were Australian company Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp and Auckland-based Archimedia. Apparently there were some rumblings in the industry about the hiring of a – gasp – Aussie firm. The results speak for themselves. Aside from their medal-winning performance, fjmt and Archimedia previously collaborated on the University of Auckland Business School. The latter is also a fine piece of work – especially when thinking back to the time one spent as an economics student in Dunedin. Uni students have solved many of life’s biggest mysteries, but no one could answer the question: ‘why would anyone design a building with an atrium that floods every time it rains’?
Anyway. Revamping the Auckland Art Gallery came with a host of challenges. The architects were dealing with a heritage building that had been around since the 1880s. From this they had to come up with a revamp that would provide 50 percent more exhibition space and provide a cultural, contemporary touch while preserving the building’s original character. A delicate balance made more challenging by the need to enhance, and not spoil, its relationship with the beautiful Albert Park in which it’s located.
On all counts it was Mission Accomplished. Since the new improved Gallery was completed last September over 500,000 visitors have been through their doors: doors which are now (along with the non-leaky atrium and forecourt) covered by some stunning kauri canopies.
At a cost of $121 million, funded by central and local government alongside the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation, expectations and pressure were high. As the NZIA’s citation reads, “the Art Gallery’s requirements have been met, and so have Aucklanders’ expectations.” Take a bow, everyone!