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Patterson's shimmering New Zealand art gallery reflects the work of late Len Lye


Auckland-based architects Patterson Associates have created a shimmering art museum dedicated to experimental artist Len Lye.
The NZ$18m (US$11.9m, €10.8m, £7.6m) development in New Plymouth, New Zealand, is the country’s first institution dedicated to a single artist.
Described as 'a temple for art', the gallery creates a sensory experience of light inspired by Len Lye, who was known for his kinetic and multimedia pieces. The stainless steel shimmering design pays homage to the New Zealand-born artist, with the folded surface reflecting and refracting light and its surroundings, changing in
appearance throughout both the days and seasons.
In the gallery’s interior, gaps between the exterior facade allow controlled amounts of light through at various points in the day, creating an interior colonnade effect of moving light patterns on the walkway, which the architect describes as “passive kinetic architecture”.
The museum comprises a series of galleries varying in size, with viewing rooms, educational spaces and archives distributed over four levels, many of which open up to large voids connected by ramps or bridges to create a complex interior spacial sequence.
"The shimmering, iridescent colonnade facade, manufactured locally using stainless steel – Taranaki's 'local stone' – links both Lye's innovations in kinetics and light as well as the region's industrial innovation," said studio principal Andrew Patterson. "By doing this we celebrate the fortunate gift of his works to the Taranaki region of western New Zealand."
The building is adjoined to the existing Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and will operate in tandem with the institution. While separate entities, the two buildings share a single entrance, as well as staff and management facilities. The two galleries also share an educational suite, exhibition space, a 62-seat cinema, a shop and a café. The Len Lye Centre has been designed to withstand the strongest earthquake expected in New Zealand over the next 1,000 years. The Govett-Brewster has also undergone essential earthquake strengthening during the construction of the new gallery.
Patterson were selected from a shortlist of 10 New Zealand architects in 2010, following a nationwide selection process. New Plymouth architectural and engineering firm Chapman Oulsnam Speirs assisted Patterson with the development, while New Plymouth-based Clelands Construction were awarded tender for the project in February 2013.
A total of NZ$12m (US$7.9m, €7.2m, £5m) was raised externally for the Len Lye Centre, with funding coming from the TSB Community Trust, Ministry for Arts Culture and Heritage Regional Museum Policy Fund, Lotteries’ Environment and Heritage Fund, Todd Energy, the Len Lye Centre Trust and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board Significant Projects Fund. The remaining NZ$6m (US$4m, €3.6m, £2.5m) was funded by New Plymouth Council.
The Len Lye Centre has opened with four new exhibitions; including the earliest of the late artist’s sculptures, Four Fountains; a reconstruction ofTrilogy (A Flip and Two Twisters); the politically oriented Our Hearts of Darkness and the music-inspired Len Lye’s Jam Session.

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