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Christchurch City Council Media Release 25 November 1998

Christchurch Art Gallery Design Competition

Report of the Competition Panel of Assessors


The assessors are confident that the distinction demonstrated by the design and the skills of the consultant team responsible for it will result in a building of landmark quality that will serve well the people of Christchurch, the needs of the Christchurch Art Gallery and enhance the fabric of the City.


Design Summary

There exists in the design visual excitement and a sophisticated response to the very special locality of the site with the opportunity it offers to provide a public experience combining an outdoor place for people, trees and sculpture with exposure of the interior and activities of the Art Gallery.

The design is deceptively simple.

By exercising considerable discipline in the organisation of the functional spaces necessary to the working of an effective art museum, exhibition spaces and their back of house support facilities, the design frees the plan and the site to permit a flexible arrangement of open, spacious public connections between the foyer as a transition space, and the outdoor park, gardens and forecourt

There exists virtually continuous indoor-outdoor connection.

The public face of the building, its identity as an Art Gallery, is expressed by the west wall. A sinuous mix of translucent panels of metal, clear glass and water, the wall is seen by the architects to have association with the curved shapes of the Koru and to the serpentine course of the Avon River. This wall and the functional forecourt spaces provided for ceremony recognise bi-cultural associations. Further associations exist with earth, sky, river and forest in the outdoor spaces where stainless steel pole forms are set within plantings of trees.

The expressive west wall is evidence of the technology of today and, by contrast and reflection, acknowledges the traditional and historic building forms that will be its neighbours. It does not copy the past, it respects the past.

The assessors see this building recognising the respect of Christchurch City for its public buildings and carrying this strongly through to the future.

The principal entry exists from an arrival forecourt on the exposed south west corner of the site. Alternative sheltered entrances exist. The design provides for children and for education and tour groups with a north entry adjacent to a provision for buses in Gloucester Street.

The opportunity for an accessible public park occupying 40 per cent of the site has been a challenge and a feature of the design task. This design provides access to this on all three frontages of the site. Although seen as a treed urban open space, sheltered garden areas and provision for display of sculpture are provided for with flexibility for enhancement and change. The space is seen to complement rather than copy the character of existing open spaces in the vicinity.

Structurally the building is simple.

The assessment process has required that the building design is achievable within the budget allocated by Council. The simplicity of its structural system contributes to this. Detail assessment of costs have shown the structural discipline of the design with regular grids and vertical alignments have produced economies. This extends to the parking levels below ground and logically to the location and organisation of vertical transportation. Future growth is planned by vertical addition.

Building services are compact and respect the requirement for efficiencies utilising building mass and zoning. Solar gain, losses and control of operational spaces have been considered. The Great Hall, as a separately zoned environment, while permitting entry of controlled sunlight and light has considered the implications of partial glazing to both walls and roof.

This space with great height, dappled shafts of sun and visual extension to the park will be a sophisticated public function space.

The design concentrates all operational vehicle movements in Gloucester Street. This includes access to and from the underground public carpark.

Conventional durable materials are proposed with the solid wall cladding utilising the benefits of precast concrete with a fine stone surface finish, glass and zinc alloy sheet. Consideration in design development of the use of local natural stone facings is a recommendation by the assessors.



In summary the design submitted by the Buchan Group is functional, striking, workable, efficient structurally and achievable. The public park open space is unrestricted, flexible and capable of refined development. It is closely integrated with the gallery experience, contributes to the gallery on the site and its associations with the region.


Tom Dixon

Chair and Convenor

Christchurch Art Gallery Panel of Assessors

25 November 1998

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