Toi Art gallery fit-out, Te Papa Hero

Toi Art, Te Papa

Located on Wellington’s waterfront, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is a world leader in interactive and visitor-focused museum experiences. The museum also displays a collection of New Zealand’s diverse art and visual culture along with touring international exhibitions.

Hawkins was awarded the contract for the new national art gallery fit-out. It required redeveloping parts of levels 4 and 5 to create an extended art gallery space. This was the first project in Te Papa’s Renewal Programme to refurbish and alter areas within the museum. 

The project involved the demolition and clearing of an entry space, and the ensuing conversion of this space and adjacent spaces into the new National Art Gallery, Toi Art. 

The primary structural work included the addition of 8.4m-high LVL walls clad in fibrous plaster, all capable of supporting a hanging point load of 300 kilograms at regular intervals. Hawkins removed two existing stairwells and built a new public access stairwell between the two levels of the gallery. The finishes are dominated by Venetian and fibrous plaster walls which are prominent on the new, curved hanging façade. The design also features Tasmanian Oak flooring and panelling.

The two-level gallery took 16,000 hours to build and required 30 tonnes of steel and 20 kilometres of timber to construct. 

The biggest challenge in this project was undertaking the construction works in an occupied building whilst managing the interface with visitors to New Zealand’s busiest museum. 

With the new gallery's publicised opening date looming, the programme stayed tight for the full duration of the project. To add extra pressure to the completion date, several design changes and variations were made that needed to be incorporated into the programme while maintaining the client's end date.   

Working in a live museum environment meant carefully managing dust. This was done by building an 8m-high temporary hoarding to enclose the construction site and ensure the security of $650 million dollars’ worth of irreplaceable art and historical artefacts on display. So that construction work did not affect visitors’ experience, construction noise was managed by undertaking loud works between 11pm and 10am. In conjunction with night works, a specially built insulated workshop was constructed within the site for noisy construction works. 

A challenging logistical aspect of the project was getting materials into the construction site. The Hawkins team only had access to one goods lift and needed to load long materials for the 8m walls. To overcome this, an exterior window on the fourth floor was removed so that these long materials could be hoisted through and onto the construction site. 

All these challenges required meticulous planning and strong communication between Hawkins, the client and consultants.

Toi Art is New Zealand’s largest gallery and features fixed and touring exhibitions featuring works from local and international artists displaying sculpture, fabric, video, installation pieces along with paint and print works.