See upgrade work at two historic venues


9/08/2019 12:00:00 p.m.

9 August 2019

During Whanganui Heritage Month the community will have an opportunity to look behind the scenes at seismic upgrade work on two Whanganui District Council venues  –  the Royal Wanganui Opera House and the Whanganui War Memorial Centre.

Tours of the Opera House will take place at 9.30-10.30am on Wednesdays 14, 21, 28 August and 4 September. Tours of the War Memorial Centre will be at 10.45-11.45am on the same dates. The free tours will be led by the architects and structural engineers who carried out the seismic upgrade work.

Council General Manager Property, Leighton Toy, says, “We’re pleased to have completed seismic upgrades to two of our historically important buildings.”

The architecturally significant War Memorial Centre was reopened in February this year after being closed for six months for an extensive seismic upgrade to bring it up to 67% of the New Building Standard (NBS). The minimum level buildings need to meet when seismically upgrading is 34% of the NBS.

“The work has involved securing non-load bearing masonry walls with additional steel poles and adding a reinforced shear wall structure on the forecourt near the main entrance. Structural steel frames have been inserted at the rear of the auditorium and in the Concert Chamber,” says Mr Toy.

Built in 1960, the Centre is a living memorial to the servicemen and women who lost their lives during World War II. In 1961 the building was awarded a gold medal from the New Zealand Institute of Architects and is listed as one of the top 50 modernist buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.

Architect Gerald Cogan says, “People will be able to see the interventions and the way in which these have been handled architecturally to retain the character and aesthetic of the building and its spaces.”

The Royal Wanganui Opera House was seismically upgraded in 2015. At 119 years old, the Opera House is the last remaining working Victorian theatre in the Southern Hemisphere. The seismic upgrade brought the building up from 10% of the NBS to +34%.

“During work to upgrade the building’s foundations, 120 tonnes of material was removed. As work was within the restricted confines of the existing building, it was undertaken by hand and wheelbarrows,” says Leighton Toy.

“The installation of the new portal frame, within the proscenium arch, involved cutting two holes in the Opera House roof, through which the two 14 metre “legs” of the frame were lowered and bolted between new steel column uprights. A new foundation beam beneath the edge of the stage was constructed to form the base of the new structural frame. In addition, the ceiling was covered in a layer of structural plaster which was tied back to the ceiling supports by 3870 stainless steel ties.”

Architect Bruce Dickson says, “The strengthening design was cleverly done on the Opera House and there is very little visual change to the architecture of the building.”

More information about the tours is available on the Whanganui Heritage Month website:

Heritage Month began on Friday, 2 August and runs to Sunday, 15 September 2019.

Page reviewed: 09 Aug 2019 12:00pm