An exemplar in retaining the feeling of the old while maintaining the essence of what was before.
The Bishop Suter Art Gallery was established in 1899, and is the oldest continuously occupied public art gallery in New Zealand. The extensive reconstruction replaces all of the existing building, except for the theatre and the Grade 2 listed ‘Original Gallery’; which has been fully restored to reveal the original roof trusses and external fabric, and has been seismically strengthened and brought up to modern gallery standards with heritage advice from Ian Bowman, Conservator.
The new spaces include: three new galleries, storage, workshop and office facilities and a new entrance foyer, education facilities, shop and café overlooking the adjacent Queens Gardens. The new areas are designed as a contemporary counterpoint to the existing building, using glass, stone and zinc and the abstracted form of the original gallery to provide a sympathetic response to this important heritage building and surrounds. Larger, contemporary gallery spaces, with controlled environment conditions and upgraded back-of-house areas, ensures the preservation of Suter's collection, and allows for increased display space for art works or visiting exhibitions.
Particular care was taken with the building edge alongside Queens Gardens, which features a low-scaled, stepped edge with glazing to reflect surrounding trees and the historic Eel Pond. This edge serves as a backdrop to a new Sculpture Walkway, located amongst the trees. The new foyer is threaded between the theatre and the original gallery, opening a strong visual connection with Queens Gardens. The foyer is a multi-purpose area allowing for reception, retail, public gatherings and ceremonies with access to all facilities.
The redevelopment is significant not only for the gallery but for Nelson City itself. Nelson is a recognised national centre for arts, craft and culture and this project enables Suter to represent the rich cultural history of Nelson and its people.
This rebuild and strengthening of Nelson’s main art gallery is a triumph. Two existing buildings have been retained and featured in the new layout. The gallery and entrance floor levels have been altered to provide a common floor level that greatly improves access and flow. A central foyer (or ‘laneway’) links the old and new areas and features a series of carved Po. The café space provides a visual and physical link to adjacent Queens Gardens. The much-needed and improved staff work and storage areas function well. A restrained selection of cladding to the additions ensures they do not dominate. The new landscaping enables the public access around the building in order to view sculpture.
- New Zealand Institute of Architects Local Awards Citation, 2017