Paul King | Freelance Architect

Christchurch Art Gallery Competition


Project: Competition for the design of the new city art gallery, Christchurch CBD

Client: Christchurch City Council

The programme we adopted here was a slightly ambitious attempt to grapple with ‘the impact of art on human experience’.

At the time (pre earthquake) Christchurch felt like a genteel place, proud of its “more English than England” heritage.  We (prophetically as it turned out) posited that this placid appearance masked raw and seething forces lurking beneath the surface of things.

Physically, Christchurch is built beside an ancient volcano, on an active fault line. Culturally it represents a thin and imported contemporary veneer over a deeper and uneasy memory of displaced indigenous occupation, overlaying in turn a vast primordial history in which humans played no part.

We current tenants of this place drift complacently through life, seeing only ‘the now’, our efforts primarily about decorating the surface of things; so our architectural ‘intervention’  resolved into fractured uneasy sentinel forms surrounding and casting their slowly moving shadows across a serene (but perhaps not permanently so) pool of water overlaying the epicenter of the construction. We wanted to hint at the potential for raw shock that both place and art can evoke, when the lace curtains of our complacency are unexpectedly whipped aside.

Our rendered images are not at all polished by today’s rendering standards, but we had a lot of fun, compressed into an insanely short time frame.