WHAT architecture - London

Sargeant Gallery

Art Gallery
Scale1800 sqm
LocationWanganui, NZ
ClientSargeant Gallery www.sarjeant.org.nz
Design Year1999

The WHAT_arc design updated the obsolete iconographic image of the town – the Gallery on top of a hill approached by grand civic stair – which, historically, was an attempt by early planners to represent the entire town in a singular picture postcard view. The design extended the Gallery (which holds over 5000 artworks in its collection) from the rear, the forgotten façade hidden from the town, towards the native bush landscape and the snow capped distant Mount Ruapehu. Extending the gallery in this direction was not purely a symbolic but pragmatic decision to privilege arrival by car over the quaintly romanticised yet rarely taken frontal pedestrian approach. In kiwi-culture, it is rear not the front that is important. The front door is considered a formal entry: for strangers, ‘the Queen’ and such like whereas the rear door is informal and is for ‘friends’. Given that Wanganui is a provincial town exemplified by its board short wearing gallery director, informality is seen as an important social mechanism to connect the arts to the masses and maximise audience figures.

This project was awarded 2nd prize in an international competition to extend the existing Sargeant Arts Gallery