Monday 1 December 2008

December on the gallery development site

Well, it's the 2nd of December and the pace of 'deconstruction' has not slowed down! Now that all of the 'non-heritage' parts of the building have been removed - the middle section and the 'wedge' (as the gallery staff call it!) to the rear of the building - you can get a very clear understanding of how the buildings must have looked back in the late 1800's and early 1900's!

The Wellesley and Kitchener wings soar along Wellesley and Kitchener Street. Built at a time when the Park and trees were not as well-established as today - this building, which housed the council's municipal offices, a library and art gallery - must have dramatically changed the city landscape.

The now temporarily free-standing building adjacent to the park - the East Gallery - was built in 1916 to address the need for more gallery space. It is one of only two day lit galleries of its kind in New Zealand - where the light is admitted through a roof-based monitor and diffused through a lay-light. It's exciting to think we are going to be able to enjoy the gallery in a way that our forebears did when we re-open in 2011. Then, though we will enter at a slighter higher level than before, so that visitors do not need to negotiate stairs to get into this gallery.

By removing the 'wedge' which used to contain the goods lift and various back of house necessities, you can glimpse the outside of the original Wellesley wing on its northern side. It is easy to see the outlines of windows on this wall if you look at the images on the gallery's webcam. The intention is to make reference to this in the new building - in the south atrium which replaces the wedge at the south eastern end of the building.

At the moment work is focusing on ensuring that the heritage buildings are secure. Obviously in a project of this kind, you don't just pull down the bits of the building you don't want! The six buildings that comprised the art gallery as we knew it, were so closely packed, that enormous care has been taken when removing the more recent additions.

Once everything is satisfactorily secured, attention will turn to the next stage of the building project - which will be excavation to create a lower basement and a basement in the middle area between the two historic buildings. It reminds me a little of the Auckland Museum project. I remember being invited to a tour to look at the enormous hole that had been excavated! I can also remember the excavations for the Sky Tower - I was working in a building that overlooked the site. Our digging will probably seem insignificant in comparison! Still exciting though!

image credits (top to bottom):

Henry Winklemann
Date: 1903
Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

Detail of webcam image

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