Gallery's artful kauri ceiling

SOLID WORK: Stephen Pearson, project director for the Auckland Art Gallery's kauri pod installation, had a team working split shifts out of a joinery shed to create the stunning ceiling
Jason Oxenham
SOLID WORK: Stephen Pearson, project director for the Auckland Art Gallery's kauri pod installation, had a team working split shifts out of a joinery shed to create the stunning ceiling

Good old-fashioned Kiwi workmanship is at the forefront of the Auckland Art Gallery upgrade.

The multi-million dollar renovations are due to be finished in September in time for the Rugby World Cup.

And the team behind its refurbishment is hoping all eyes will be on the handcrafted kauri roof which has just been installed.

More than 150 cubic metres of timber was sourced to complete the project, which provides a visual centrepiece for the new atrium on Kitchener St.

With the ceiling towering 15 metres above the entrance, it has been a labour of love for project director Stephen Pearson.

"The fact that we've used native New Zealand timber, as well as good old fashion Kiwi workmanship – those two things together have led to a pretty special end result," he says.

Mr Pearson worked with two separate teams to complete the installation, which has taken more than two years to build.

The kauri pods were designed by architect groups FJMT and Archimedia and are an interpretation of a forest canopy. Along with the glass facades of the atrium they aim to link the natural and the built environment of the gallery and its surrounds.

The 28 pods were created in a small workshop in Papakura, and each measures about 10 metres by 5 metres.

Mr Pearson says the first pod took four months to assemble because it was created by hand with a tolerance of just 0.2mm.

"It's a pretty proud thing to have the project finished," he says.

"It's showing off what we can do as tradespeople and showing off our native timber for the world to see its 100 percent Kiwi workmanship."

Gallery director Chris Saines says renovations are on track and he is confident the new premises will open in time for the Rugby World Cup.

Construction is due for completion about May, before final checks are completed.

Air conditioning, painting, lift and electrical systems still need to be installed. The gallery will then need three months for conditioning of the building, to let dust settle and reinstall artworks.

"We'll need every day of those following months to be able to move into the area – it's going to be all hands to the pump to get things ready for September," Mr Haines says.

"I doubt we'll ever have a more challenging time in our careers than the next few months getting ready for opening."

KEY FACTS

The budget for the Auckland Art Gallery upgrade is $121 million.

So far 70 percent of the renovation budget has been allocated.

Almost $500,000 has gone towards sourcing kauri for the atrium roof and labour costs.

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