Close Encounter of the Cool Kind
Yesterday was the launch of Interior magazine at the newly opened, refurbished Auckland Art Gallery. S&T's new 6 Star Green Star Wellington Design Studio is featured in the launch issue of Interior. I was able to get a good look of the new Gallery at the same time. Here are a few of my impressions...
Walking up the stairs on Khartoum place the first thing one sees is the looming timber parasols. The scale of these is far more adequate for a civic building than the previous ones. Most stunning is the see-through effect from Lorne Street to the treetops of Albert Park, framed by the parasols.
Passing through the entry foyer and up the stairway I found myself in the generous North Atrium, the elevated enclosed forecourt and the node to the several collections. Its spatial proportions are grand and intimate at the same time and its light quality on this spring morning was just gorgeous.
After the launch I took the opportunity to have a glance at the Julian and Josie Robertson Collection – and was struck in awe. What a great assembly of masterpieces! I was especially amazed by Henry Matisse’s ‘Jazz’ cycle. It really made my day and I’ll return soon to discover more of the unexpected treasures in Auckland’s Art Gallery.
Paying more attention to architecture on my way out, it appeared to me that the atrium displays a conflict between the attempt to establish a certain ‘Pacific’ style and the impact of European tradition. While the slender wooden stilts of the parasols (those in the forecourt proudly wear the ruru carvings of Arnold Manaaki Wilson) formulate a Pacific take on architecture, the heavy stone slabs counter their subtle quality; and, on the atrium’s south side, they brutishly “crash” into the fine woodwork.
Comparing this building to a classic European museum, the Auckland Art Gallery seems to ignore the basic principles such as the clarity of the circulation. The position of the stairs and circulation pattern of Karl-Friedrich Schinkel’s Altes Museum in Berlin designed 1822 is contrasts strongly with the awkwardly placed stair and the mousehole-entry to the fantastic collection. In this it seems that the European tradition is fading away - which is fine, in my opinion, but a Pacific style has not fully emerged yet (we’re working on that!).
In conclusion I am overwhelmed by the Robertson Collection and acknowledge the gallery extension as an important step towards a new architecture that embraces the Pacific culture in its lightness and its subtle response to the natural and urban environment in which it is embedded.
- Posted Sept. 9, 2011