City Gallery Wellington Hero

City Gallery Wellington: better serving its diverse communities

Wellington’s City Gallery, which was originally purpose-built as the central public library, is part of the collective of diverse architectural styles that form Wellington’s Civic Square.

Established in 1980, it was the first significant non-collecting exhibition-based public gallery in New Zealand. With a focus on contemporary visual arts, architecture and design the gallery has achieved a reputation for innovation and style, inspiring and challenging its audiences through local, national and international exhibitions as well as international exchanges and joint ventures with other art museums.

Wellington City Gallery’s aim:

  • Improve the seismic strengthening of the 1930’s building.
  • Increase gallery space for the expanding City Gallery collection and to hold functions.

What we did:

We were asked to build the two-storey, 185m² extension to City Gallery Wellington. The project was initiated in 2006, with construction work starting in 2008.

The new South Tower addition is slim and tall and sits adjacent to the west wing of the existing building. Other than seismic strengthening work, minimal change was required to the existing facility.

We installed around 60 panels of reinforced in situ concrete seismic strengthening, which required approximately 5,000 holes to be drilled into the existing building. The new structure was built on screw piles to overcome the tidal conditions and the errant eel that was discovered - the tide comes in and out below the existing gallery building.

Seismic separation joints were employed at all points where the extension meets the existing building to ensure the two buildings are able to move independently of each other during a seismic event. This prevents them from damaging one another. The extension has a steel frame primary structure. Floor slabs are concrete with acoustically isolated timber floors over. The roof is lightweight membrane.

The formal opening of the extension took place in September 2009.

The new space provides:

  • Two first floor galleries dedicated to emerging Wellington, Maori and Pacific Art
  • A 135-seat auditorium.

These spaces increase the opportunities for the building to be used for exhibitions and other public functions.

Unique challenges:

  • There was limited site access during construction, especially for carnage. This was undertaken in controlled conditions out of hours.
  • We employed noise control methods to minimise disruption to the surrounding buildings and space users. The City Gallery was closed for the duration of the project because of the extent of demolition works and associated noise involved in the seismic strengthening of the existing gallery building.
  • We had a strict project completion deadline in order for the installation of a major international exhibition to take place – which we achieved.

The outcome:

City Gallery Wellington is a much-loved and integral part of the fabric of the city. The new South tower extension, while contemporary, complements the original 1930s heritage building and allows the Gallery to better serve many communities with a diverse range of art exhibitions and events.