NEW PLYMOUTH – Patterson Associates, an architectural firm from Auckland, has designed an art gallery that responds to the motivations of an art foundation’s central figure. The Len Lye Centre is a new space for the Len Lye Foundation, which extends from the existing Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Len Lye was an artist who pursued movement in art with the hope of giving people a full-body experience on encountering his work; the artist’s main focus was on kinetic sculptures and experimental film. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery occupies an old cinema, making the context fitting for the screening of Len Lye’s legacy.
The architect approached the spatial and visual aspects of the new gallery by creating a building which merges architecture with the kinetic art of Len Lye. Circulation within the venue has been managed in a way to fully embrace a non-standard form of bodily movement. The façade of the new extension is a ripple of vertical, polished stainless-steel waves that bounce reflections in all directions. Within the interior, space is organised with the entrance lobby located in the existing structure leading into a subterranean theatre which displays documentaries not only covering Lye’s work but also his life. Laid out cross five levels is an arrangement of gallery spaces that are primarily dedicated to covering Lye’s writings, film, paintings and sculpture.
The foundation also has new space for its film archives and paper works storage, with studio spaces for education and the continued exploration of Lye’s concepts that he previously couldn’t realise due to technology of his time. The primary circulation for the building is the ramp which rises vertically around the perimeter of the building leading people to climb a continual gallery volume, touching on the bodily experience of Lye’s work. The internal surface of the rippling façade borders the ramp – here in a calm variation to its sparkling external face, the surface is a muted concrete which softly receives moving natural light.