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Auckland Art Gallery takes out top architecture award

The Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tāmaki, has nudged out Knoll Ridge Café on Mt Ruapehu, a house at Piha and Remarkables Primary School to claim the top prize in New Zealand architecture.

The New Zealand Architecture Medal was presented to architects Sydney-based fjmt and Auckland-based Archimedia at the New Zealand Architecture Awards dinner at Te Papa, Wellington, on Friday.

The jury praised the building’s “moments of drama” such as “the beautifully crafted kauri canopies over the atrium and forecourt that elevate a visit into an occasion”.

“There were high hopes for this building, and big challenges to overcome. The architects had to work with an existing heritage building and a sensitive site on the edge of Albert Park, as well provide all the spaces and amenities required by a twenty-first century art gallery," said convenor, Wellington architect Hugh Tennent.

“On all fronts, the architects have risen to the occasion. The existing building looks stunning, the new building looks even better, and the two parts work well together. And with its generous terraces the Art Gallery now makes the most of its connections to Albert Park.”

The architects were acknowledged for both the design – produced by fjmt director Richard Francis-Jones – and for their perseverance in steering the building through a “lengthy and much-scrutinised construction process” which included restoring and strengthening the 1888 building.

“The architects have held their nerve to realise a civic building that Auckland needed, and needed to be very good,” the jury said.

“The Art Gallery’s requirements have been met, and so have Aucklanders’ expectations."