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Objectspace, a gallery dedicated to showcasing design and architecture, opens in Auckland

New Zealand has galleries a plenty to frequent when it comes to showcasing visual art, but the work of architects and other design disciplines have been underserved ­– until now, with Objectspace. And with national conversations around urban planning and housing a hot topic, its expansion couldn’t be more timely. We chatted with director Kim Paton about her vision for the gallery’s new space. 

Objectspace opened in 2004 and until recently, was housed on Ponsonby Rd. The gallery’s expansion to the refitted industrial warehouse on Rose Rd was to help fulfill its ambitions of celebrating what’s going on in areas of New Zealand’s design industry that are underserved by galleries – in particular, the craft, design and architecture sectors.

It’s currently the only public gallery in New Zealand dedicated to showcasing these mediums.

Its step up in size also comes thanks to an injection from Creative New Zealand, which effectively doubled the gallery’s funding.

Objectspace director Kim Paton says the gallery’s move is a reflection of a growing public awareness for the role that design plays in everyday life, as well as a growing national interest in having a conversation around design.

“I think in New Zealand, we never see shows that are architecture focused,” she says. “The closest you’d get to it is the applied arts section of Auckland Museum or Te Papa. However, I think there’s a huge hunger for it – all you need to do is look at the amount of people studying design across disciplines to understand the scale of the industry. Housing, urban planning – these are things that are around us all the time, so we need to define or create a language for exhibitions in these domains.”

She says good design is becoming more of a part of the mainstream dialogue, but more needs to be done to make the conversation inclusive to all.

“I don’t think we have a vernacular or an everyday language for design, it’s always ‘over there’. But actually, when you try cross the street or you’re standing in a room and it just feels off, that feeling like that window’s in the wrong place, that’s our intuitive design language, but that’s not something we articulate very much in New Zealand,” Paton says.

“We treat architecture like it’s privileged and for people who can afford really nice houses, but fundamentally it shouldn’t be. Look at our legacy of building poorly designed housing in New Zealand. Look at governments and local councils making large-scale decisions that don’t value the role of design in the way a city is built, or in the way housing is developed.”

As a non-commercial, government funded gallery, she says Objectspace has a responsibility to be open and accessible to all walks of life.

“We want the doors to be wide open in a welcoming way to everyone and to speak to different audiences, not just have a rarified conversation around highly expensive objects,” Paton says. “We’ll be in trouble if we look like showroom.”

The coming together of Objectspace’s new digs has been a truly collaborative effort by the design industry: Architect Richard Naish of RTA Studio worked pro-bono to transform the space into a cultural hub for New Zealand design, while design studio Alt Group also came on board pro-bono and did all of the gallery’s branding and reception design. Studio Italia, IMO and Formway Design also helped with the interior design.

Meanwhile, Ockham Residential has signed onto a three-year partnership with the gallery. Its support will help fund the Ockham Lecture Series: an annual series of ten lectures featuring national and international speakers with an educational focus around design and architecture.

A massive fundraising effort with the help of philanthropy company Brown Bread has seen Objectspace raise almost $630,000 to go towards the gallery, while Paton says more than 10 architectural firms have come forward and put money towards the project, too.

The gallery consists of two main galleries, two exhibition spaces and a public programme and event space.

It will open the doors for the first time on Friday 28 July, with the opening exhibition the Future Islands showcase, which is its first time being shown in New Zealand.

Future Islands was New Zealand’s entry into the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and has just arrived back from Italy.

It tells a story about New Zealand via 55 different architectural projects on 22-island like forms that float from the ceiling. The exhibition was commissioned by the New Zealand Institute of Architects and shows the diversity of local architecture and the possibilities for the form it could take in the future. It’ll be on show in Objectspace until Saturday 16 September.

For those keen to drop by for a visit, Objectspace is located at 13 Rose Rd, Ponsonby.
 

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