Canterbury Museum reveals dramatic $195m revamp designs

The new proposed atrium space will feature a blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling.

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The new proposed atrium space will feature a blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling.

A $195 million, five-year redevelopment of the Canterbury Museum would see a soaring blue whale skeleton and two whare in a dramatic new welcome space.

The museum has released bold new designs for the central Christchurch attraction ahead of a planned resource consent application next month. The project needs another $70m.

The complete revamp of the ailing building on Rolleston Ave would include demolishing large parts of the museum built from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Canterbury Museum’s reception/foyer space as it looks currently.

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Canterbury Museum’s reception/foyer space as it looks currently.

The 19th century heritage buildings would be retained and restored, along with part of the 1970s wing overlooking the Botanic Gardens and part of the 1950s building on Rolleston Ave.

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Canterbury Museum’s current Rolleston Ave facade.

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Canterbury Museum’s current Rolleston Ave facade.

The Rolleston Ave facade of the museum will have three new entrances and a new cafe, right. The 1950s facade is on the left of the building.

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The Rolleston Ave facade of the museum will have three new entrances and a new cafe, right. The 1950s facade is on the left of the building.

The Robert McDougall Gallery, which has been closed to the public since the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, would also be restored and incorporated into the museum. The building would be leased from the Christchurch City Council.

New exhibition space, collection storage, two cafes and offices would be constructed behind the restored historic buildings in place of the demolished modern buildings.

The whole complex, including the McDougall Gallery, would be base isolated, meaning it is placed on shock absorbers to protect it from earthquakes. This would create a new basement for desperately needed collection storage space.

An original spire on the roof of the Canterbury Museum will be reinstated as part of the overhaul.

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An original spire on the roof of the Canterbury Museum will be reinstated as part of the overhaul.

A new entrance would be created on Rolleston Ave leading into the heart of the new building with the 27-metre blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling of the new atrium. It would be the first time the whale skeleton has been on public display since the early 1990s.

The atrium would also be home to two whare, one made of carvings purchased by the museum from Ngāti Porou in 1874, which has not been on display since the 1950s, and the other a modern whare designed and built in partnership with Ngāi Tahu.

Demolishing the 1990s and 1950s buildings would reveal 19th century heritage facades hidden for decades that could be seen from the new atrium.

The Roger Duff Wing as it appears today.

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The Roger Duff Wing as it appears today.

The Roger Duff Wing overlooking the Botanic Gardens will be transformed.

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The Roger Duff Wing overlooking the Botanic Gardens will be transformed.

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright said the museum had about $125m in secured or reasonably secured funding for the project, including $56m in savings and insurance money for earthquake damage.

He said he was in talks with central Government over funding for the $70m shortfall. An application to the Government shovel-ready infrastructure fund for $70m was not successful.

“We haven’t got the entire funding yet,’’ he said.

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The Canterbury Museum has developed over the last 150 years.

“The board has to make a decision on whether to make a start without the full funding and there are risks associated with that.”

The $195m budget includes money to relocate the museum to a temporary space while the main building was closed for three years during renovation. It would take two years of detailed design and consenting work before construction could start.

Wright said the building work was essential for the future of the museum, which had inadequate collection storage space and a leaking roof.

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright on the roof, which leaks in poor weather and is partly made of disintegrating asbestos.

John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright on the roof, which leaks in poor weather and is partly made of disintegrating asbestos.

“The museum has not had any significant capital expenditure for a very long time.

“The conditions of the building are mostly appalling and way below the standard required.”

Recent consultation of visitors by the museum revealed they found the place “tired’’ and a confusing “maze’’ of different spaces.

Wright said they had consulted heritage groups on the designs to avoid a repeat of the planning battle over the museum’s previous revamp plan in 2001.

Wright says the museum’s collection storage spaces are inadequate.

John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

Wright says the museum’s collection storage spaces are inadequate.

A $46.8m museum overhaul was proposed in 2001, but a backlash from heritage advocates meant the project was abandoned after aspects of the design were barred by the Environment Court.

Wright said controversial dioramas depicting pre-European settlement in New Zealand would be removed as part of the revamp and would be “very unlikely’’ to return.

The dioramas have been branded “offensive’’ by some Ngāi Tahu members for their representation of early Māori settlers.

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