"It is significant that in the heart of Auckland, which unfortunately has a reputation for some particularly soulless large buildings, a lead in working with artists is being taken, valuing the vital contribution they can make to the cityscape. What many in the arts would like to see is artists being involved early in urban design processes to ensure their valuable creative thinking is more than just decorative cladding." - Mark Amery
Two of the largest pieces of public art ever created in New Zealand will adorn the exterior of the International Convention Centre under construction in central Auckland, it was announced today.
The works by New Zealand artists Sara Hughes and Peata Larkin will span a total of 5,760sqm once fully installed on the four external walls of the NZICC.
The two artworks commissioned by SKYCITY Entertainment Group comprise 2400sqm of glass over 550 panels that wrap around the top level of the NZICC, and 13,500 terracotta tiles that form a spine wall alongside the retail and dining laneway beside the new centre.
Arts comentator Mark Amery said it is welcoming to see the work of two well-chosen artists integrated into the design of a significant building, reflective of our environment and culture. "The work for me isn’t significant because of its size, and from Lonnie Hutchinson’s recent Kakapo Cloak in Christchurch to Milan Mrkusich’s exterior panels at Te Papa in Wellington we have precedents for this kind of work elsewhere.
"It is significant that in the heart of Auckland, which unfortunately has a reputation for some particularly soulless large buildings, a lead in working with artists is being taken, valuing the vital contribution they can make to the cityscape. What many in the arts would like to see is artists being involved early in urban design processes to ensure their valuable creative thinking is more than just decorative cladding."
Installation of the glass panels will begin later this year, while the terracotta tiles will be installed from mid-2019.
General Manager NZICC, Callum Mallett, says a building of the size and scale of the NZICC offers a rare opportunity to showcase New Zealand’s culture and environment.
“We feel Sara and Peata have absolutely achieved our objective of presenting the building and its surrounds as a unique experience of New Zealand to our local and international visitors. These pieces of art are of a scale that people across Auckland, and those within the NZICC, can appreciate and experience in very personal ways,” says Mr Mallett.
Warren and Mahoney, who designed the NZICC in association with Moller Architects and Woods Bagot, say the highly collaborative design process has leveraged the NZICC’s original design brief to create a building with enduring civic presence and identity.
“We worked closely with Peata and Sara to achieve the complete integration of the artwork into the fabric of the building. Their works complement and amplify not only the key qualities of the building - the weight and substance of the spine wall, and the lightness and transparency of the level 5 prefunction spaces - but also each other, to celebrate and herald the Centre's location here in Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa," says Richard Archbold, Project Architect.
New Zealand art consultant and curator Hamish Keith CNZM OBE, commends the artwork, saying “Sara Hughes’ work well satisfies the physical challenges of the site and the larger impacts of the building on the landscape.
“The work also draws for its impact on the fluid nature of the city’s climate shifts, reflecting the constantly changing skyscape. In design and colour it also has echoes of Auckland’s volcanic landscape,’’ says Mr Keith.
The huge glass artwork features vertical fin panels on the east and west walls of the NZICC and flat glass panels on the north and south sides. The imagery uses 60 different colour tones, and is inspired by Mrs Hughes’ upbringing in rural Northland near the Waipoua kauri forest.
“The artwork reflects the experience of walking through the New Zealand bush and looking up through a canopy of trees to see the unique light and colour of the forest,’’ says Mrs Hughes.
“To me, it reflects our unique ecosystem and brings the experience of our natural environment to the central city.”
Peata Larkin’s 105m-long terracotta tile wall will span from Hobson Street to Nelson Street through the future laneway of the NZICC, and wraps back into the building.
Approximately 13,500 terracotta tiles in eight different colours will form a complementary relationship with the glass artwork, and aims to soften and add movement and life to what would have been a straight plain wall.
“I wanted to create an artwork that described the multiple waterways and fertile soil Tāmaki Makaurau (and Aotearoa) possesses, as well as connect strongly and aesthetically to Sara Hughes’ glasswork. I wanted to soften the long wall and achieved this by creating an undulated geometric pattern inspired by traditional Maori weaving; a subtle three dimensional presence that would visually change dependant on the angle it was viewed from,” says Mrs Larkin.
The two Kiwi artists were selected following initial proposals, and Mr Mallet says their work has been well-received in consultation with Auckland Council, the Crown, other key NZICC stakeholders and members of the arts community.
“With the size, scale and timeline of the project, we knew that Sara and Peata were our best selections as they had experience in, and the capability to, deliver breathtaking works of scale that would set the building apart, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in New Zealand before,” Mr Mallet says.
“This building sits on the ridgeline of Hobson and Nelson Streets and when complete, the artworks will bring a range and richness of colours we don’t see in Auckland’s CBD.’’
LED RGB lighting installed within the works will also enable the building to come to life at night with a chorography of changing colour in concert with the nearby Sky Tower.
The 550 glass panels were manufactured in Singapore, while the 13,500 clay tiles were fired in Spain. Both works are being assembled and installed by New Zealand companies.
The NZICC is being built by Fletcher Building and is fully funded by SKYCITY under an agreement with the Crown. The art and its installation are part of the budgeted $703m cost of constructing the NZICC and Horizon Hotel.
The NZICC will be New Zealand’s largest purpose-built convention centre, with capacity to take events of up to 4000 people, and was designed in collaboration with the global business events industry to ensure a sustainable building that can be enjoyed by both local and international conferences of all sizes.