A Christchurch arts institution is restored and triumphantly reopened
Following five years of closure and $4.5 million worth of refurbishment and quake strengthening, Christchurch gallery CoCA Toi Moroki, is open once again.
Founded in 1880 as the Canterbury Society of Arts, the gallery – New Zealand’s oldest – went on to become known for hosting some of the country’s most progressive exhibitions. In 1968 it made its home in a remarkable Brutalist building, a significant work in the modernist Christchurch style by Minson, Henning-Hansen and Dines. The building won a New Zealand Institute of Architects National Award, as well as a subsequent Enduring Architecture award.
The restoration offered the chance to remove unsympathetic additions and reinstate heritage features, including the demolition of a 130-square-metre 1970s addition at the rear of the gallery site that wasn’t designed by the original architects, which has now become an outdoor project space.
Best of all, the original Georgian-wired glass pyramid roof lights in the main gallery, which had been covered by paint over the years, have now been replaced and re-exposed. Concrete double-T beams and expressed concrete frames have been soda-blasted to remove paint and expose the raw concrete, and original rimu detailing has also been reinstated.
“The gallery looks as architecturally brilliant today as it did at the time of its opening in 1968,” says architectural designer Pippin Wright-Stow of F3 Design. The gallery’s new director and principal curator Paula Orrell, who has relocated from the UK, will run four contemporary curated shows there each year.
66 Gloucester Street, Christchurch
03 366 7261
Photography by: Samuel Harnett