Shiny new Len Lye Centre unveiled

Robert Charles/Fairfax NZ

The stainless steel panels on the Len Lye Centre were revealed today

New Plymouth is getting its first glimpse of the mirror-like surface on the multi million-dollar Len Lye Centre. 

After years of fancy 3D models and artists' impressions of the building, this morning work began to unveil the three panels of the 32-tonne stainless steel facade. 

The 14-metre-high reflective panels have been kept under protective plastic film while the final parts of construction are completed.

SHINE ON: Workers remove the protective coating from some of the reflective panels on the Len Lye Centre.
NPDC

SHINE ON: Workers remove the protective coating from some of the reflective panels on the Len Lye Centre.

Three of the 17 panels will be fully revealed over the next few days, while other panels will stay covered and some are yet to be erected. 

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery director Simon Rees said today marked another milestone for the Len Lye Centre. 

"This is a story about experimental design and engineering," he said. He said the recognition should go first and foremost to architect Andrew Patterson and Steve Scott and his team at Rivet, the Taranaki company which constructed the 14 metre high panels. 

MIRROR MIRROR: Workers check out the new reflective panels on the exterior of the Len Lye Centre.
ROBERT CHARLES/FAIRFAX NZ

MIRROR MIRROR: Workers check out the new reflective panels on the exterior of the Len Lye Centre.

"In the end it's been Taranaki ingenuity and engineering that has made the architect's vision possible," Rees said. 

"So this reveal is a celebration for some Taranaki contractors and their teams."

Construction work on the Len Lye Centre began in June 2013 and the mirror-like facade is a $2 million chunk of the $11.5m project.

Despite the $11.5m being 100 per cent externally funded with zero council borrowing or contribution from ratepayers, the project has been controversial in New Plymouth.

Many appear to have fallen on the sword for the Len Lye Centre, including councillors who backed the development and were then unceremoniously dumped in the 2013 elections. 

In 1980, Len Lye gifted his collection and archive to be housed at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, calling it the "swingiest art gallery in the antipodes".

The centre is New Zealand's first art museum dedicated to a single artist, and with its curved exterior walls of the mirror-like stainless steel, it will also be the country's first example of destination architecture linked to contemporary art.

The Len Lye Centre will open its doors on Saturday July 25 and entry to the gallery will be free for the first year. 

 - Taranaki Daily News

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