Auckland City Council
Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), Aotearoa/New Zealand
The Auckland Art Gallery is an iconic and much-loved part of the city’s cultural heritage. When the gallery needed to seismically strengthen and refurbish the buildings, including fire safety design—which were built in 1888 and 1916 respectively—they trusted the challenging work to Holmes’ expert engineers. The final part of the work was to design new space to host an ever-growing number of exhibits. This project required the technical expertise to cope with a challenging seismic ‘retrofit’, combined with the ability to match the character and style of the new space with the existing structure. The existing building – one of the oldest in Auckland – was the first municipal art gallery built in New Zealand and contains the most valuable public art collection in the country.
Retaining the building’s heritage features, sensitive refurbishment and upgrading fire safety was of utmost importance. Key features of the architectural design include the impressive four storey north atrium and the three storey south atrium. The new and refurbished parts of the building required large, interconnected open plan spaces with a high degree of openness and visual connection to adjacent galleries and atria.
Fire Safety Design
The fire safety design involved a challenging mix of conflicting aspirations. As the building has to deliver specific performance requirements, the fire safety engineered solution was equally performance-focused: innovative to suit this client and this architectural design. The regulators expressed concern about the number of design issues that were required to vary from ‘standard fire approaches’ and insisted on an extreme level of engineering justification. Holmes responded with engineering design solutions that addressed the significant challenges of this unique architectural masterpiece.
The fire engineering brief evolved over five years, with contributions from art curators, gallery event managers, international exhibition advisors, architects, security consultants, structural and mechanical services engineers, Fire Service and Auckland Council regulatory reviewers. The final fire safety strategy successfully achieved the outcomes required by the fire engineering brief.
Holmes used computational fluid dynamics analysis to model smoke movement and also evaluated the movement of people in a fire emergency, using a variety of engineering building use scenarios for safety and robustness. The primary public circulation routes are also used as principal fire egress routes (allowing fewer dedicated egress stairs than prescriptive regulatory requirements). Holmes coordinated a detailed review of fire protection requirements in all areas storing and displaying art. Holmes designed the systems controlling fire and smoke spread to protect the building, the art collections and the building occupants. ‘Standard’ solutions for exit signage and security on exit doors were modified to suit the specific requirements for this building.
The seismic strengthening work started rigorous assessment of the building’s structural needs, drawing on market-leading modelling technology to identify potential weaknesses. The strengthening solution focused on minimising the impact on existing heritage features, creating a robust, resilient structure for the future. The new space included three galleries and two new roof level sculpture terraces, and the addition of a three storey glass atrium structure with a tension rod façade system and tree-like canopies that define and cover the entry forecourt, atrium and gallery areas.