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New public artwork reflects heritage streetscape

Published: 12 July 2018
  • Light Weight O 2018 by Catherine Griffiths, Auckland Council Art Collection, Photography by David St George, courtesy of Auckland Council
  • Light Weight O 2018 by Catherine Griffiths, Auckland Council Art Collection, Photography by David St George, courtesy of Auckland Council

Floating high above O’Connell Street, Light Weight O by artist Catherine Griffiths is a new Auckland Council public artwork in central Auckland. The sculpture highlights the heritage architecture and character of the area. 

The artwork reflects O’Connell’s streetscape to encourage those who walk through to look upwards to appreciate the heritage architecture and surrounding environment.

Light Weight O is a mirror-faced, brass-backed, 2.4m diameter object – an ‘O’ – that is suspended to take on the entire setting rather than focusing on a specific building. It gently pivots, reflects and casts moving light to catch the eye close up and at a distance. 

“The artwork encourages those who walk through O’Connell Street to observe the above and the below and consider the space between. It brings to attention the sky, framed by the built environment, and the earth beneath,” says artist Catherine Griffiths.

After Auckland became the capital of New Zealand in 1841, Shortland Crescent developed as a commercial area; service lanes grew to accommodate workers and workshops in what is now High, O'Connell and Chancery Streets.

These streets and the connecting lanes have passed through many stages. They have a rich and varied architectural history, evident through the Victorian, Edwardian, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco and modern buildings in the area.

The artwork hangs between 5 and 10 O’Connell Street where two notable 1925 heritage buildings are located: the Royal Exchange Assurance Building that combines modern and classical influences and Administrator House’s impressive Oamaru limestone façade.

Chair of the Auckland Council Environment and Community Committee, Councillor Penny Hulse, is pleased to see the artwork connect Aucklanders with the unique and varied heritage of the area.

“Public art connects a community more deeply to a place. The artist has done a great job of highlighting the impressive heritage architecture and character of the central Auckland area. Next time you’re walking through O’Connell Street, take the time to look up and appreciate these important chronicles of our past,” she says.

Viv Beck, chair of Auckland City Centre Advisory Board, is delighted funding from the city centre targeted rate has supported new public art in our city centre streets:

“Public art is an inspiring way to tell the stories of our city and add richness to city life. O’Connell Street is an important part of the historic High Street District and this artwork is a creative way of highlighting its heritage for this recently transformed part of the city.”

The new addition to the Auckland Council public art collection was commissioned as part of the O’Connell Street laneway upgrade. The artwork’s total cost of $265,000 was funded through the approved regional public art budget and city centre targeted rate. This cost includes engineering relating to protecting the heritage buildings and meeting health and safety requirements.

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