Plans to redevelop the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery (HBMAG) are on track, with work to begin at the end of this June. The project is one of the largest in the central city for some years, says museum director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins.

As proposed and approved, the $18 million project will renovate, expand and update the existing museum buildings, which were cobbled together to create the museum. It will ensure “an iconic site in Napier is held in public ownership for as many generations as we can plan for,” says Napier City Mayor Barbara Arnott.

In the 1930’s, Art deco architect Louis Hay designed the original museum, now overgrown and virtually invisible. Over time, the HBMAG expanded into the adjacent Borough Council Building. The Century theatre, designed by architect Guy Natusch, was added in the 1970’s.

The museum is within the Napier City Historic Conservation area, registered by the Historic Places Trust in 1995.

The museum essentially has outgrown its space. Its collections of documents, art, artefacts and Maori taonga have increased, largely through donations by local families. The museum lacks space to exhibit much of its collections, now stored chockablock in the basement, which does not meet current museum storage standards.

Napier City Council began planning redevelopment of the HBMAG in its 2004 Ten Year Plan, allocating $5 million toward it. The Council subsequently set aside another $1 million for the project and will apply to the central government’s Regional Museums Fund in February for $6 million. The Hastings District Council, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and the community will fund the remaining $6 million.

HBMAG is applying to funding organizations such as the Lottery Grants Board, said Lloyd Jenkins. He is optimistic that the $18 million target will be reached. “Fundraising has been going very well,” he said. “The project has its natural rhythm. Most people are saying it’s a great thing.”

Community fundraising will begin in June. In the meantime, the fundraising effort, led by Giblin McLeod Ltd., is offering corporate sponsorship packages linked to parts of the project such as the new large galleries, foyer, education suites and Taonga Maori Gallery.

A special committee has been established to work with the museum on development of the Maori gallery. HBMAG is the repository for Ngati Kahungunu taonga, which must be housed and cared for appropriately.

HBMAG will close at the end of June for work to begin on the project. The museum’s collections will be packed and moved to undisclosed storage locations offsite for their safety. The old council building will be removed and some existing structures demolished. Construction is scheduled for completion in two years.

The museum hopes to keep the Century Cinema open through the whole process, Lloyd Jenkins said, and education programs will continue. Staff will be redeployed to related work during the project.

The museum will reopen at Easter 2012 as an entirely new institution, says Lloyd Jenkins. A model of the new building is displayed in the museum’s lobby and also can be viewed on Napier City Council’s website at www.napier.govt.nz under Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery upgrade. The project also has its own site: www.forus.org.nz.

Richard Daniels of Opus International Consulting designed the upgrade after a first, more dramatic design by another architect was discarded in response to public disapproval. Daniels was the lead architect on the Staples Rodway Building in Hastings and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council offices in Napier.

The approved design is elegant, the glassed entrance welcoming. A large mural by New Zealand artist Sarah Hughes adds colour to the façade. The building “is not about the architect: it’s about the city,” said Lloyd Jenkins. “It won’t compete for attention with its contents.”

“The new building focuses on creating a light, modern, iconic space. Although the design is very contemporary, it will also be sympathetic to the existing Napier cityscape and particularly to its direct neighbours,” said Lloyd Jenkins. “It will be beautiful.”

Project Who’s Who

Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, HBMAG director, is a curator, writer, lecturer and commentator specialising in design and architecture. His book, At Home: a Century of New Zealand Design, won the Montana Medal for Non Fiction.  He created TVNZ’s program Big Art Trip and the television documentary series New Zealand at Home.

Trained in art history and design, he established the study of Design History at the UNITEC Institute of Technology in Auckland.  He became director of HBMAG in 2006. In 2008 he was named Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of his contributions to the field of design.

He is excited about the HBMAG redevelopment, “what we’re going to be able to do, what we’re going to be able to bring to all of Hawke’s Bay.”

Opus International Consultants Ltd. grew out of the former New Zealand government Ministry of Works and Development, becoming a privately owned company with projects in 20 countries. Opus boasts more than a century of experience in infrastructure development covering planning, design, project management, construction supervision, maintenance and rehabilitation.

Opus has around 2,300 staff in offices and laboratories throughout Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. In 2006 Trade New Zealand named Opus Supreme Exporter of the Year.

Architect Richard Daniels of Opus has led a number of award-winning projects in Hawke’s Bay: the Watson/Hasselman House and the Crown Hotel and Restaurant, both in Napier, and the Gisborne Police Station. He is based in the Opus Napier office.

Jenni Giblin is with Giblin McLeod Ltd., a specialist consulting company providing analysis, advice, planning and communication services to public sector and not-for-profit organisations.  Based in Hastings, Giblin worked with the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council as fundraising coordinator for the Waipawa Municipal Theatre refurbishment project. She is on the project team for Sports Park Hawke’s Bay.

Check It Out

For an entertaining video presentation on the HBMAG redevelopment project, go to http://www.forus.org.nz/news.html and click on the introductory video. It stars Councillor John Cocking as Bertie, is informative and fun to watch.

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