Christchurch Art Gallery built to highest standard

CHARLIE GATES AND CHRISTOPHER MOORE
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2011
SAFE HAVEN: The Christchurch Art Gallery has once again been transformed from a gallery into an Emergency Operations Centre for hundreds of workers from Civil Defence, police, fire services and other agencies.
THE PRESS
SAFE HAVEN: The Christchurch Art Gallery has once again been transformed from a gallery into an Emergency Operations Centre for hundreds of workers from Civil Defence, police, fire services and other agencies.

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The Christchurch Art Gallery was specially designed to withstand large earthquakes.

The building was unharmed in the Tuesday earthquake and has once again been transformed from a gallery into an Emergency Operations Centre for hundreds of workers from Civil Defence, police, fire services and other agencies.

The $47.5 million building was designed by architecture firm The Buchan Group and the Christchurch office of structural engineers Holmes Consulting.

The gallery, which opened in May 2003, is designed to distribute the force of the quake evenly throughout the building. The glass sculpture wall can stand up on its own and ball joints connecting the glass panels allow it to flex during a quake.

The foundation of the gallery is a concrete "raft slab" that sits on the surface of the ground and evenly distributes the quake forces through walls that are specially designed and braced to withstand quakes.

The design brief for the gallery did not state it would need to act as a Civil Defence headquarters in the event of an emergency, but did call for "very high levels of seismic tolerance" as it was a public building.

The Christchurch office of Holmes Consulting on Victoria St was badly damaged in the Tuesday earthquake but staff were unharmed. Holmes engineers are helping with search and rescue operations and building inspections.

Holmes engineers yesterday undertook a four-hour inspection of the Canterbury Museum and the Robert McDougall Gallery. Both buildings were green stickered.

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright said the museum building is structurally sound except for areas of loose stonework on the facade that were due to be removed yesterday.

Wright said the museum was "in some disarray" but estimates that 95 per cent of the collections are fine. He said there will have to be further investigations to assess the condition of the remainder.

"We were incredibly lucky. I am very relieved," said Wright.

The museum and the Robert McDougall gallery will remain closed to the public and staff until further notice.

The museum is thought to be one of the only 19th century Gothic Revival buildings in Christchurch to have escaped Tuesday's earthquake relatively unscathed.

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- The Press

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