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Christchurch City Council Media Release 25 November 1998

Christchurch Art Gallery Project

The Buchan Group

Design Concept and Rationale for the new Christchurch Art Gallery

The Buchan Group design concept for the new Christchurch art gallery focuses on creating clear, legible and functional forms for the exhibition spaces, adjacent to a large and versatile outdoor civic space.

The most striking first impression created by the building will be the undulating semi-transparent exterior — the ‘Koru Wall’.

Formed from glass and metal shingles hung on a frame of tilting giant steel columns, the Koru Wall will catch north sunlight, illuminating the gallery in combinations of light, shade and seasonal contrast, while admitting controlled natural light into some of the building’s internal spaces.

Functionally the Koru Wall will outline the semi-transparent ‘Great Hall’ to create a seamless transition between external and exhibition spaces. This will form a glass-covered main entry foyer and envelope the rest of the gallery within a flowing and unfolding wall. Seamlessness will be further emphasised through a contiguous internal-external flooring grid of exfoliated granite paving and sculptures located within and outside the Great Hall.

Designed using the pure geometry of the cone — with internal and external curvatures of differing radii —the organic nature of the Koru Wall will contrast with the rectilinear functionalist forms of the building’s exhibition spaces. Detailing on the Koru Wall will enable panels of grey tinted transparent glass, milky translucent glass, opaque glass and low sheen zinc alloy shingles to be fitted in any location in semi-transparent mosaic form, allowing control of light quality, view and solar penetration. A series of reflecting ponds — part inside, part outside the Great Hall — will add to this magical light quality and the seamless transition between internal and external spaces.

In form, the Koru Wall evokes the serpentine and picturesque course of the River Avon; ‘mare tail’ cloud patterns across the Canterbury sky during a Nor’ Wester; and the shape of the Koru — creating an image which has local, regional and national resonance.

A feature of the gallery design is the union of open space and built forms to embrace all three street frontages (Gloucester St, Worcester Boulevard and Montreal St). This will largely eliminate any sense of a separate ‘front’ and ‘back’ for the building, creating principal entry towards Worcester Boulevard, with inclination towards both the city to the east and the Arts Centre to the south-west.

The Great Hall will serve as the entry foyer for the building and receive four entry/exit points in addition to access stairs and a shuttle lift to the car park — entry to which will be from Gloucester Street .

As well as the exhibition spaces, a shop, bistro, auditorium, café, brasserie and an education space will adjoin the Great Hall. For after-hours use, along with the Great Hall itself, it will be possible to isolate each of these, while locking the exhibition spaces.

Within the gallery, the exhibition spaces are rectangular to maximise operational flexibility and visitor orientation. They will extend over two levels, with a grand stair accessing the first floor galleries and temporary exhibition spaces, and lifts at the east end of double height gallery.

The exhibition spaces will be formed using prefinished, precoloured precast concrete, with a fine stone-like surface texture. This texture will be deeply etched with random continuous vertical and random discontinuous angled horizontal joints of varying depth and width, creating the effect of stone formations. The ‘geological’ masonry forms evoked in this way will express the notion of earth and the safe retention of the treasures held within.

With greater floor to floor heights employed in the exhibition spaces, a part-mezzanine floor will be located above the ground floor education spaces, accommodating administration and staff amenities together with the semi-public study areas. The administration spaces will look through the Great Hall to the sculpture garden. Study areas and curatorial offices will overlook Gloucester Street.

From Gloucester Street a loading dock and goods lift will connect to first level and mezzanine level spaces. Back of house spaces and a circulation spine to the east of building will provide discrete access points into the exhibition spaces, enabling total and secured separation between public and back of house spaces.

Above ground floor the form of the main building is rectilinear with a regular grid of columns and beams supporting precast concrete floors. Most of the building area has been designed to utilise this simple and cost effective structural framework. Columns and walls have been carefully co-ordinated to match the grid of columns at the basement levels.


For further information contact: Rob Patience
The Buchan Group
Tel: 09 524 6161

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