The redevelopment of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui is underway, with construction scheduled to commence in the final quarter of 2019.
The redevelopment will see the original Gallery strengthened, together with new storage and exhibition facilities constructed to the north of the original building.
It will involve upgrading the existing Category 1 heritage building and constructing a new wing, Te Pataka o Taiaroa – acknowledging Sir Te Atawhai Archie Taiaroa.
The proposed extension to the Gallery comprises a three-level structure sited to the north of the existing building. The design over three levels provides a relatively small building footprint and a modest overall mass alongside the existing gallery.
The intent of the design is to create a modern extension, which is compatible with the old building by maintaining proportion, scale, height, materials and colour, resulting in a neutral addition that sits comfortably alongside and does not compete with its established neighbour.
Old and new components are linked by a foyer that has full-height glazed walls to the east and west, together with a glazed roof, which creates an open transparent entry space between the two solid masses. The extension does not at all impact on the heritage building’s prominent siting and profile on the skyline.
Issues of inadequate exhibition space, lack of access to the Collection for the public, insufficient staff working areas and poor environmental conditions for proper storage and exhibition of a nationally significant Collection have established a need to extend the Gallery, make it fit-for-purpose and future-proofed.
Built in 1919 as the result of a bequest from local farmer and businessman, Henry Sarjeant, this century-old building stands as the focal point of Pukenamu Queen’s Park. It is a landmark on the Whanganui skyline and its silhouette is identified closely with Whanganui. It is often photographed against the impressive backdrop of Mount Ruapehu.
The reserve itself has local and national importance. There are significant archaeological remains present throughout the reserve. It was once the site of a Maori Pā, and later the Rutland Stockade and associated soldiers’ settlement.
Located on a remnant sand-dune, it was known to Māori as Pukenamu meaning Sandfly Hill. Today it is the location of several heritage buildings, with the Sarjeant Gallery being the most prominent and having pride of place on the hill. It is recognised as the “cultural centre” of Whanganui.
The Sarjeant Gallery’s classical architectural style distinguishes it as a building of national significance in New Zealand. Constructed largely of unreinforced masonry, it is rated at only 5% of the current new building code.
The Sarjeant is one of New Zealand's oldest art galleries and has a reputation of having one of the country's most significant art collections, unrivalled in regional galleries.
The state of the collection has been a matter of great concern, with museum professionals having expressed alarm at the conditions in which it was being kept, believing it to be at considerable risk of long-term damage. Despite the best efforts of Gallery staff, several items have deteriorated, and only proper museum storage conditions will halt this.
The Sarjeant Gallery building is currently closed and operations have been moved to a temporary site until the new building can be constructed and the heritage building repaired.
The Gallery opened in temporary premises at 38 Taupō Quay on 24 May 2014. Sarjeant on the Quay features new exhibitions, education services and public programmes.