Close connections with Whanganui make the redevelopment of the Sarjeant Gallery an extra special project for architects, Roy Wilson and Ralph Roberts from Warren and Mahoney Architects. Both will deliver a free presentation to the community about the redevelopment, accompanied by specialist engineer, Philip Yong, on Friday 11 November at 6pm in the Alexander Heritage and Research Library.
Mr Wilson’s daughters attended Whanganui Collegiate and Mr Roberts grew up here, attending Wanganui Boys’ College, now Whanganui City College. He and his wife Julia have family living in the city and its surrounds.
“We have strong connections with [the region] and visit often. We have been looking forward for 18 years to working in Whanganui,” Mr Roberts says.
The redevelopment of the Sarjeant Gallery will take a few more steps from the virtual towards three-dimensional reality during two events that promise to inform, engage and enthuse the local community. Following Friday’s presentation on Saturday 12 November the public will be able to go on pre-booked tours around the old building 10.30am to 3.30pm and walk through an installation dubbed, “The Blueprint” which is a surveyed, to scale layout of the gallery extension on site in Queen’s Park. A cherry picker will take people up to the height of the proposed viewing window at the back of the gallery.
The redevelopment of the Sarjeant Gallery involves restoration and earthquake strengthening of the original building, and the addition of a new, state of the art gallery. The new wing will provide much needed storage for the extensive and nationally significant Sarjeant art collection along with additional gallery space, education facilities and a café.
The unreinforced masonry building is also in obvious need of strengthening and repair and the architects and engineer will explain how they plan to achieve this while maintaining the aesthetic integrity of the original design.
Mr Wilson and Mr Roberts are delighted to present the project to Whanganui. They say the redeveloped building and its outstanding collection will attract tourists and encourage economic growth in the region.
“The Sarjeant Gallery is unique in New Zealand and easily recognizable, like the Beehive,” Mr Wilson says. “The opportunity to design a gallery on the back was something as architects we just couldn’t resist.”
In 1998 Warren and Mahoney won an international competition for the design and he says the solution to add a modern extension at the rear, sensitive to the original in scale and materials, was quite simple. Both architects have just returned from Venice and they say visits to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and other modern galleries in heritage settings confirm that their design approach is world class.
Mr Roberts says they welcomed the opportunity to celebrate one of the best heritage buildings in New Zealand and that the extension sits separately in its own space while being clearly related to the old building. A glazed walkway connects the two buildings while a fully glazed ground floor gives “the box” of the new wing the appearance of floating in the air.
Old and new parts of the gallery will meet 100 percent of building code requirements. Warren and Mahoney have experience on similar projects such as the Supreme Court in Wellington where they restored and strengthened an old building, the High Court, putting it on base isolators and constructing a new building beside it. Other similar projects include the Suter Gallery, the National Library, and the Christchurch Art Gallery.
“It’s great to think we have almost got to the stage where we can complete the project. Whanganui has a connection for all of us so it’s nice to be able to do this and to help support the city,” Mr Wilson says.