People and Places

Why the Len Lye Centre is artist Shannon Novak’s favourite building

Article by Home Magazine

Auckland-based artist and trained pianist Shannon Novak returned to New Plymouth, his birth city, to riff on the physicality of The Len Lye Centre

Len Lye centre

“How could you not love it? Long mirrored arms stretch into the sky pulling it earthward. Smooth, undulating curves trace visual music through the air. Warm sunlight slow dances around your body as you move from one glistening column to the other. The Len Lye Centre is a total body experience. Designed by Andrew Patterson, it opened in 2015 and is home to artist Len Lye’s collection and archive. It’s situated on the corner of Queen Street and Devon Street West in the CBD, an area populated by other buildings I love for different reasons, including the iconic Clock Tower I once transformed into a multicoloured beacon of light in 2011, and the historic White Hart Hotel where I installed a series of coloured lines during a renovation phase in 2012.

The tower and hotel shimmer in distorted reflections on the Len Lye Centre, as does your own reflection. Then there’s the interior. The building is host to galleries, a small cinema, and an education centre. Raw concrete columns imitating the glossy epidermis, ripple along concrete-floored hallways like wind-ruffled curtains. White and black walls stretch up to white ceilings peppered with bright lights that illuminate Lye’s work.

It has been described as a temple and it certainly feels like it. High-walled rooms echo the nave of a small church, artworks are startling apparitions that communicate an otherworldly dialect, shaking you from the world you know, into one you never imagined. It’s at this point I see the building as a living organism: the outer structure the skin and bones that contain the endlessly complex but vital organs or artworks. We (the audience) then become the oxygen-enriched blood that brings it all to life as we circulate through the building, one I can’t wait for new generations to experience.”

Photography by: Glenn Jeffrey.

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