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Auckland Art Gallery wins New Zealand's Top Architecture Award 

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is the 2012 winner of the top prize in New Zealand architecture - the New Zealand Architecture Medal.

The award was presented to the Gallery's architects, Sydney-based fjmt and Auckland-based Archimedia, at the New Zealand Architecture Awards dinner at Te Papa, Wellington, on Friday 25 May.

The judges of the New Zealand Institute of Architects' annual awards programme selected the Auckland Art Gallery from a field of 20 recipients of 2012 New Zealand Awards for Architecture, which was narrowed to four finalists: the Auckland Art Gallery; Knoll Ridge Café on Mt Ruapehu, designed by Harris Butt Architecture; a house at Piha designed by Herbst Architects; and Remarkables Primary School, Queenstown, designed by Babbage Consultants.

"The Auckland Art Gallery is a most deserving winner of the Architecture Medal," says the convenor of the awards jury, Wellington architect Hugh Tennent. "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."

"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 awards jury praised the architects for both the design of the Gallery, 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. "A key issue confronted was also the big opportunity embraced: the Art Gallery's relationship with Albert Park.

"But the building's other relationships - with Kitchener Street and with the wider city - have been pursued very successfully, as has the strategy of using the spaces around the building, and views into the interior, to invite the public into the Art Gallery."

The Awards jury also 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".

Inside the Gallery, the jury said, the architecture, "with its high quality detailing, easily navigable and highly functional galleries, and carefully delineated but unlaboured distinction between new and existing structure, imparts the confidence that comes from high level competence".

"The Art Gallery's requirements have been met, and so have Aucklanders' expectations," concluded the jury which, in addition to Hugh Tennent, comprised New Zealand architects Ivan Mercep, Ginny Pedlow and Gary Lawson, and Australian architect John Wardle.

The New Zealand Architecture Awards is the annual official awards programme of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, established to determine the best architectural projects submitted each year. All Award-winners will have been visited by the jury, which comprises architects who each have a strong record of designing accomplished buildings.

Facts

Award:  2012 New Zealand Architecture Medal

Awarded by: New Zealand Institute of Architects

Recipient: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Architects: fjmt + Archimedia architects in association

Design architect: Richard Francis-Jones

Client: Auckland City Council (now Auckland Council)

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