19 Nov 2015

Christchurch Art Gallery's foundations secured

8:28 pm on 19 November 2015

After thousands of hours, blood, sweat and tears, foundation work on the Christchurch Art Gallery has been completed, on time and on budget.

Gallery director Jenny Harper and Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel were their for the final cutting of concrete to finish base isolation work.

Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper and Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel were there for the final cutting of concrete to finish base isolation work. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

The building, which weighs 30,000 tonnes, had one side sink 15 centimetres as a result of the earthquakes that hit the city in 2010 and 2011.

Nearly $60 million worth of repairs began in August 2013.

Gallery director Jenny Harper had the honor of cutting the final piece of concrete to mark the completion of the base isolation work today.

Since the quake, artwork has been displayed in temporary spaces around the city but Ms Harper said nothing compared to a proper gallery.

"I can't go anywhere socially or otherwise without people asking me about how the work is going, and when the gallery is going to reopen.

"We always talk about the economic benefits and the value for tourism it brings to Christchurch and the region, but the cultural value the gallery brings to the city is so much more important," Ms Harper said.

Inside the Christchurch art gallery

Inside the Christchurch Art Gallery. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

Fulton Hogan's Ben Hardy said the gallery has been transformed from a rigid reinforced concrete building to one which now floated on 140 pendulum bearings.

"In the event of an earthquake, the bearings dissipate the energy from the shaking and reduce the acceleration effect on people and the artworks inside."

Mr Hardy said a 600mm trench had been dug around the building to facilitate movement.

He said 200 workers had been on site at any given time carrying out the repairs, and were on track to be out of the gallery in a few weeks.

"We are now paving all the stairs and entry ways, cleaning the window and sanding the floors, we need to do a final big clean up so it can look less like a building site and more like an art gallery."

Ms Harper said the gallery would open its doors for the first time since the earthquakes on 19 December.

"We'll gradually move in, initially the foyer and upstairs will be open and then we will slowly work to open other parts of the gallery, it is a work in progress," she said.

So in only a few short weeks Christchurch residents will once again be able to enjoy art works such as Rita Angus' Cass and Petrus van der Velden's The Dutch Funeral.

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