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Architectural Treat at Auckland Museum

Forum > Architecture

by John Hurrell
9AucklandMuseum The new Auckland War Memorial Museum Atrium opened last December, a dynamic architectural project designed by Noel Lane that has got all museum junkies highly excited. Positioned in the back of the original museum’s hollow shell, it brings a spectacular array of new facilities to this institution, plus a copper and glass dome on the roof from which one can see a panoramic view of Auckland’s volcanic landscape.

Though described as a ‘dome’, the roof - because it can’t go higher than any part of the original building – is really an inverted copper saucer with an undulating lip: something more like a wobbly mushroom or floppy pikelet. It is a fascinating piece of design with its integration into the original building, and though slightly weird, is calculatedly unobtrusive.

In fact it might be too discreet –the result of excessive caution. The original heritage building’s silhouette is undamaged, and might have been improved with a semi-circular, vertical extension.

Never mind. It is inside that the real treat is to be seen: a massive vase or bowl suspended by three huge legs containing lifts. This vessel – bearing four floors – is lined with pale Fijian kauri, and looks gorgeous.

What is really interesting is that this design shows the big influence of Andrew Drummond, especially the sculptural ‘devices’ he made in the mid nineties. Lane and Drummond are old friends who once collaborated on an exhibition together at City Gallery in 1992, in a show organised by Greg Burke.

If you want to go up to the rooftop on a guided tour, you have to buy a $15 ticket to Vaka Moana, an interactive exhibition about Pacific migration. Though the content is interesting, this inhouse presentation is cluttered and incoherent, and brings an element of perversity because of the clarity and elegance of Lane’s larger Atrium design. Outside the space and inside are two completely different worlds.


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12 articles & 232 comments since 13 Aug 2006
the inverted 'dome' a southern hemisphere genuflection?
(do I mean anything much, no, I just thought it sounded smart).
I met someone today who goes north for six or so months of the year to AK (from ChCh), and she's keen to see this, knows the building well she says.
I'm keen to see it too.
2 articles & 24 comments since 25 Oct 2006
I went to see this recently, and boy was I disappointed. I went with my Dad who works for BECA, the engineering firm responsible for it, and he was very impressed by the engineering. But he and I and my Mum were disappointed with the design. What ruined it for me was the glass wall that seems to have been added on post hoc to create an exhibition space on the ground floor. The glass just seems so temporary and yet it cuts into the wood of the hanging upside down dome. And my Mum commented on the stair way that just seemed so anti functional and obviously hopeless for the disabled and taking up a huge amount of space. In sum I think the whole thing was built to get at the views from the top. And this space on the roof with its panoramic views has been booked out 6 months ahead at something like 5K a shot. In other words this is a cash cow for the council, and a nice venue for the rich to have their wedding receptions. The rest of us will never be allowed in there again, unless you can afford to "pay" the donation, wait in line, and be herded like cows to get into that place....

All in all, a very expensive mistake. If they really wanted to make more room then why not just kick out the office workers that take up the beautiful spaces in the existing rooms? Some how I think making more space was not the intention. Gee I'm so glad to see my city tax is being used to further the development of public facilities. Not!
12 articles & 232 comments since 13 Aug 2006
Well, even buildings - or perhaps alterations - that don't impress at first, can grow on you. There's that modern dark-reddish and (?)pinkish-facaded bank building in ChCh on the Avon near Harley Chambers for instance. Its colouring says something but the result, I find, is not too 'fractal,' now, but I didn't like it at first.
2 articles & 24 comments since 25 Oct 2006
I hope you're right. But then, perhaps this is a trick the mind plays on us. Once a building gets old enough there's usually a shift from not liking it to liking it. Perhaps this is just something that happens in general, and should not be taken as evidence of value. Perhaps what should determine something's value is how people judge it at the time. If enough people think that it's value won't increase as time passes then tear it down I say.
12 articles & 232 comments since 13 Aug 2006
Queues aren't a measure of lack of a culturally-interesting place or thing in other parts of the world, though tiresome.
But not being able to get orderly access the top or viewing place of the extensions eventually, on any day you visit, does sound 'undemocratic', and, if it is going to continue like that, a highly irritating arrangement.
The CAG stair, on the other hand, though rather over-the-top, is free and wide.
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