The new Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is an extensive public project that includes the restoration and adaption of heritage buildings; a new building extension which more than doubles the public exhibition areas; extensive basement storage and support areas; and the redesign of adjacent areas of Albert Park.
The architecture has developed from a concept which relates as much to the organic natural forms of the landscape as it does from the architectural order and character of the heritage buildings.
The new building is characterised by a series of fine ‘tree-like’ canopies that define and cover the entry forecourt, atrium and gallery areas. These light, profiled forms are inspired by the adjacent canopy of pohutukawa trees and ‘hover’ over the stone walls and terraces that reinterpret the natural topography of the site. The ceilings of the canopies are assembled from carefully selected Kauri, profiled into precise geometric patterns and supported on slender and tapering shafts. These emblematic forms give the Gallery a unique identity that is inspired by the natural landscape of the site.
A detailed study of the relative dimensions, proportions and alignments determined the final form and positioning of the new elements, creating a finely crafted complement to the heritage buildings.
Between the stepped stone podium and hovering canopies, an openness and transparency is created to allow views through, into and out of the Gallery circulation and display spaces into the green landscape of Albert Park. In this way the Gallery opens to the park and adjoining public spaces in an inviting and engaging gesture of welcome.
The entry sequence into the Gallery follows a progression from the street forecourt, under a generous and welcoming canopy, through into a lower foyer to emerge via a broad stair into the large light-filled atrium. The atrium provides a central orientation and display space for visitors. Gallery circulation extends from the main atrium in a clear series of loops interconnecting all Gallery spaces via the smaller southern atrium which mediates the junction between the new insertion and the existing Wellesley Wing.
A wide range of diverse exhibition spaces and rooms are created, both fixed and flexible, formal and informal, heritage and contemporary, naturally-lit and artificially-lit, open and closed, high spaces and lower spaces.
The operations, servicing and ‘back of house’ facilities are distributed in extended basement areas, with specialist conservation areas and administration space woven into the multiple levels of the Kitchener Wing.