Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua
As the creative spirit of New Zealand and Māori art traditions look both to the past and to the future, the new Sarjeant Gallery Wing references its history and its context; the land, the river and the sea as a continuum, linking our origins and our destinies.
Warren and Mahoney won the international design competition for extensions to the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui. The existing Gallery, with its symmetrical cruciform plan, built in a classical language, sits atop the hill in the centre of Whanganui.
The new gallery wing is a three-level extension sited to the north of the existing building. A double height, fully glazed entry foyer both separates and connects the old and new pieces of the art gallery, extending into the landscape toward the Wanganui River and distant Mt Ruapehu. A simple, legible floor plan reinforces the architectonic structure of the historic building. This design intent expands and enhances the existing Sarjeant Gallery in a respectful manner. A bridge suspended within the entry foyer connects the new exhibition areas to the existing galleries. The bridge signifies a crossing point between two buildings of distinct architectural styles, representing a point of departure on a journey into the world of art.
Through a series of workshops with Warren and Mahoney and Te Kāhui Toi, the artist group appointed by Te Rūnanga o Tūpoho, the design narrative Kānapanapa references the light effect that can be seen under certain conditions on the Whanganui River. Constructed from dark stone panels highlighted by splashes of shiny steel Tioata inserts will create the effect of light shimmering on the water. The stone panels are trapezoidal in shape and will be formed into a pattern known as Aramoana, which is unique to Whanganui, using honed and polished stone finishes to create contrast and shadow and symbolise the pathway from the Awa to the sea.
A narrow, fully glazed viewing balcony cantilevers out for the extension façade. This extends the axial ley-line from the existing gallery out towards Mount Ruapehu – the birthplace of the river.
As part of the restoration, the historic Sarjeant building is being seismically strengthened. New structural elements are inserted into the existing building fabric with minimum disruption to the decorative interior spaces. The original main entrance and side rooms will be restored and used as a library and members’ area as well as a ceremonial entrance when required. The existing basement space will be reconfigured to accommodate building services, while on the gallery floor, the prominent dome and skylights remain.