Tātaki Auckland Unlimited is undertaking essential maintenance work to the iconic heritage building on the corner of Kitchener and Wellesley streets, the original 1887 home of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

The project is vital to ensure that one of New Zealand’s most iconic and beloved buildings is maintained for future generations. As such, it has been named Heritage Restoration Project: Kia Whakahou, Kia Whakaora (to restore, to heal). As a Category 1 historic place of outstanding cultural significance, all the planned works will be sympathetic to the heritage status of the building.

The phased project programme will begin with replacing the original slate roof and undertaking some seismic strengthening (Stage One). A subsequent stage (Stage Two), planned to be delivered in parallel, includes render repairs, re-painting the external walls and renovating external window joinery where necessary.

Timing and Gallery access

Work begins on erecting the hoardings around the original corner building next week, followed by scaffolding and protective shrink wrapping. Once this is in place, work will start on the roof. The entire project is anticipated to take two years to complete.

As the restoration work focuses on the heritage building, the modern 2011 extension will remain open as usual throughout the project; with most exhibitions and events running as usual. Some heritage parts of the building will be temporarily closed, while other areas may be affected from time to time in order that work may be carried out in a safe manner.

Visitors will still be able to access the footpath around the building, and access will be via the main entrance to the Gallery.

A complex undertaking

The considerable age of the slate tiles on the roof and natural deterioration over time has meant the loose and slipping tiles no longer protect the roof structure underneath, and they have become a health and safety hazard. Temporary mitigation has included a catch-fence along the roofline.

The complex work includes:

  • Replacing the slate roof, the underroof, lead and copper flashings and gutters and downpipes. Skylights will also be removed to reinstate the original dormer roofing.
  • Civil work along the Wellesley and Kitchener Street pavement will enable better drainage connections from the roof gutter and downpipes.
  • Minor seismic improvements to the parapets and clock tower.

The project team has procured slates from the original quarry in the United Kingdom. Only a handful of skilled installers in New Zealand are able to do this careful work, as each tile is installed by hand.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited Chief Executive Auckland Nick Hill says the Heritage Restoration Project: Kia Whakahou, Kia Whakaora is essential to protect one of Auckland’s best-loved buildings and the treasures within.

“As kaitiaki for Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, every component of the works we will undertake is vital to the longevity and safety of this iconic heritage building and to preserving Auckland’s collection of irreplaceable artworks."

We know how important the Gallery is to Aucklanders, and to art-lovers everywhere, and that it is essential we continue to protect it for everyone’s enjoyment, now and into the future.

Auckland Art Gallery Director Kirsten Lacy says the restoration project is an exciting opportunity to share the building’s journey and what it means to visitors.

“The Gallery is one of the oldest and most-cherished, free public buildings in Auckland. Except for Christmas Day, it is continuously open, and is set to welcome 420,000 people to our city this year.

“Residents and visitors to Tāmaki Makaurau love the mix of heritage and contemporary architecture, and the way in which the building reflects the unique character of our city."

We can all feel proud of caring for this exceptional heritage building, which belongs to the people of Auckland.

Visit the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki Heritage Restoration Project: Kia Whakahou Kia Whakaora page for regular updates from the project team and heritage architects.

As kaitiaki for Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, every component of the work is vital to the longevity and safety of this iconic heritage building and to preserving Auckland’s collection of irreplaceable artworks.

Nick Hill, Chief Executive - Tātaki Auckland Unlimited

About this iconic heritage building

One of Auckland’s very first civic buildings, the Gallery is admired for its timeless beauty. Designed by Melbourne architects John H Grainger and Charles A D’Ebro, the original Gallery building contains influences from French Renaissance and Second Empire styles. After opening in 1887 as Auckland City’s Free Public Library and Municipal Offices, part of this heritage building was devoted to the Gallery and its doors officially opened on 17 February 1888.

Since then, the Gallery has been witness to major events in the city’s life and has continuously offered art experiences that have entertained, educated and inspired audiences from far and wide. As the home of art in New Zealand, the Gallery has continued to grow, first with the addition of the Mackelvie Gallery in 1916 and then with its multi-award-winning expansion in 2011.

Today, the Gallery retains its historic architecture, combining it with a 21st-century design that connects people with art, heritage and place.

Project cost

The budget for this work has been approved and forms part of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited’s existing Long Term Plan capital renewals funding. In the Annual Budget 2022/23, $16m was reserved for Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki capital investment and this will be augmented by philanthropic funding. Final costs are likely to be affected by global supply impacts on building and construction and will be reported upon completion.

More project information

Find more project information here

The project is being delivered by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited with support from Precon Project Management and design input from Ignite Architecture and Heritage specialists David Pearson Architects. Auckland Council is funding the project as part of the long-term plan for this iconic Auckland asset.