Changing skyline at Wigram will benefit Christchurch initially
… and a real image of progress on 19 September, beside the existing museum structure.
In recent times, cranes on the Christchurch skyline have tended to indicate another building is being demolished, but this is not the case at Wigram. At the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, construction of a major extension is well on the way to completion by the end of the year.
When construction began in November 2011, few people could have imagined the magnitude of this imposing structure. Ten months on, with the roof raised and walls being lined, the real size of the new facility is starting to become evident. The 6500m2 of floor space will allow for all aircraft currently being restored or in storage to be better displayed for the public and will provide a new restoration hangar along with ancillary workshops and facilities, all purpose-designed and heated.
Or that was the intention prior to 22 February last year. However, in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes, the Museum Trust Board has decided to take the extraordinary step of putting the museum’s needs on hold for a period and to offer the new building for use to benefit the wider community.
The board, in partnership with various organisations including the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust, will use some of the completed building as a cultural collections recovery centre for the next three years instead of immediately occupying the facility itself. The museum has already been able to help salvage and take in a range of collections from a diverse spectrum of organisations from contemporary art to small community museums as an emergency measure.
Many more organisations have even worse temporary storage for their collections such as garages and containers. All of this material needs to be sorted, cleaned, conserved, reboxed, catalogued and properly stored until these organisations can reestablish their own buildings or premises again. Currently there is nowhere this can be done and no other cultural organisation in Christchurch has the capacity to assist.
At the same time 1500m2 of the remaining space is planned to be used as a temporary convention space, to help substitute for the main city convention centre which has been unusable since February 2011. The city needs a large conference centre to attract back domestic and international business seminars and conventions which in turn generate around $60–100m gross benefit every year for the city.
The project, which has been in development since 2003, comes with a $14.3m price tag. The board has raised most of the funds required but is still actively seeking donations and sponsorship for the final $1m to bring the project to a successful conclusion.
The intention has always been for the Air Force Museum to be an integral part of the wider Christchurch community, and the use of this development for earthquake recovery will prove to be a vital aspect of the wider rebuild in Christchurch. The redevelopment will also send a strong message to the tourism community around the world that Canterbury is not only rebuilding but also investing in new infrastructure. In three years’ time it will revert to its intended use as a much-needed expansion of a significant national museum.
For further information or offers of assistance please contact the museum:
- Report by John King
» Summer success at the Walsh
» The luxury of living in the Ivory Tower
» Comper moves swiftly
» UAV usefulness increasing
» Woodville’s even dozen
» 60th birthday party for ZK-BNL
» New airline MRO facility
» Hands across the Southern Alps
» Praise earned in tough place