On 11 June, Howick’s Uxbridge Arts Centre reopened after a year-long redevelopment, realising the community’s vision for a fit for purpose arts and culture facility. The centre is a key piece of arts and culture infrastructure for east Auckland.
The original Uxbridge Creative Centre was a collection of old buildings, most of which had been moved on site in 1981 and were nearing the end of their useful life. The buildings' condition and size were hindering the ability of the Uxbridge Trust to deliver a variety of arts and cultural services to their community.
At the beginning of 2010 Auckland Council started community consultation and an urban design assessment to determine community needs. Feedback emphasised that the redevelopment of the Uxbridge Creative Centre was a priority and highlighted that a future design should create an easily accessible community and arts precinct.
In 2012 Auckland Council approved a concept design and allocated $6.5 million dollars to the centre’s redevelopment.
While construction was underway the Uxbridge Trust continued to provide as many arts and culture services as possible. The former police station on Moore Street was used for some programmes while some remained at Uxbridge. To enable this, the construction programme was phased into two stages.
The first stage of the redevelopment involved the demolition of Keall House, removal of existing buildings and underground works to update supporting infrastructure. What now stands in place is a completely new complex, encompassing a purpose built art gallery, storeroom, practical art studios, meeting rooms, administration area and café space.
Toi Whītiki - Auckland’s Arts and Culture Strategic Action Plan includes objectives for increased opportunity to experience arts and to support a network of complementary arts and cultural facilities. The redevelopment of Uxbridge is an example of how these key objectives are being achieved.
The new gallery is named after local architect Malcolm Smith, who was a founding member of Uxbridge Trust in 1981 and responsible for designing the initial walkway which created an open and airy feel.
Architect for the redevelopment, Harry Street from Creative Spaces, wanted to honour the spirit of Malcolm Smith, with a new entrance, atrium and walkway reminiscent of Smith’s vision. The design, which goes over three levels, brings natural light into the area and creates disability access throughout.
The new design also reflects community feedback that the new facility should sit into the environment, not overwhelm the heritage buildings; and retain sea views from the library.
The Uxbridge Trust says the contemporary space will help them harness their belief in the transformative power of art, and create a range of contemporary art exhibitions to inspire and challenge its audiences.
Vickie Bowers, Director of Uxbridge, says the building “provides new options for Uxbridge to deliver quality art and culture services to our community and encourage dialogue, foster creativity, and explore meaningful new ideas with insight, imagination, and intelligence”.
Stage two of the redevelopment will open to the public in October 2016. This will reveal the heritage church transformed in to a dedicated theatre. Uxbridge will celebrate this with a two-week festival showcasing local and internationally-acclaimed acts.
Find out more about Toi Whītiki - Auckland’s Arts and Culture Strategic Action Plan.