The heritage building
Melbourne architects John H Grainger and Charles A D’Ebro designed the oldest part of our building in French Château style. One of Auckland’s first civic buildings, this Category 1 historic place is loved for its timeless beauty. After opening in 1887 as Auckland City’s Free Public Library and Municipal Offices, part of the building was devoted to the Gallery. Our doors officially opened on 17 February 1888.
First additions to the Gallery
One hundred years on from opening day, the Gallery had taken over the entire building – and significantly added to it. During that time three extensions, including the majestic Mackelvie Gallery, greatly enlarged exhibition spaces and added a research library. Yet the pressure of our ever-growing collection and the demands put on presentation by new forms of art meant we still needed more room.
The NEW Gallery
To provide a space dedicated to contemporary art we established The NEW Gallery, across the road from the main building, in October 1995. With the generous support of the Auckland Contemporary Art Trust, architects David Mitchell and Julie Stout extensively remodelled the existing building into contemporary art galleries. This annex was home to engaging exhibitions and dynamic public programmes until it closed on 14 August 2011, ahead of the opening of the redeveloped main Gallery building.
A place for art – the Gallery now
After six years of construction the developed Gallery building reopened to the public on 3 September 2011. We began this major project by asking the citizens of Auckland what kind of gallery they wanted. Their answers shaped the vision and led the design direction. People asked for an iconic building that would help create outstanding art experiences. They wanted a world-class public art gallery that valued its architectural heritage, unique site and New Zealand’s biculturalism.
Sydney-based architecture firm FJMT and Auckland practice Archimedia were contracted as architects. The FJMT + Archimedia design answered our brief with flair and confidence.
As a result, our gallery spaces today retain features of the French Château style building and the Mackelvie Gallery. These are sensitively combined with a 21st-century design. Important new architectural elements enhance the Gallery’s relationship with Albert Park, once a Māori pā (fortified village), and include our three Māori commissions. The visual and architectural connection to Albert Park reflects our desire to honour the Gallery’s site and its heritage, and the Māori commissions demonstrate our commitment to biculturalism. The Gallery now succeeds in connecting people with art, heritage and place.