Thursday, May 30, 2024

$5.6m makeover of century-old glasshouses revealed

Auckland Council is throwing the covers off the grand old glasshouses of the Auckland Domain Wintergarden following a $5.62 million makeover.

The elegant century-old structures are beginning a new chapter after two years under cover, says Auckland Domain Committee Chair and Deputy Mayor, Desley Simpson.

COVID-19 lockdowns denied the dames the chance to celebrate their 100th birthday in October 2021, so Auckland Council is reintroducing them to the public this week.

“It’s been pain-staking work to sympathetically restore these beautiful old heritage glasshouse buildings which have hosted weddings, musical recitals and APEC world leaders,” says Councillor Desley Simpson.

“The two-year restoration of the Wintergarden buildings has allowed these gems to reclaim their status as ‘stars’ of the Auckland Domain. It’s great to re-open their doors and welcome the public back in to enjoy an amazing experience,” she said.

Designed in the early 1900s by the prominent Auckland architect, William Gummer and completed by his expanded practice, Gummer and Ford, the two steel and glass, barrel-vaulted Victorian glasshouses have undergone seismic strengthening with additional steel ties and cleats attached to the existing structure, specially designed glazing bars added, and clear glass re-introduced in keeping with the original design intent.

The marble statues in the courtyard between the glasshouses were added in the 1920s and 30s by local businessman William Elliot.

String quartet performing at Wintergardens circa 1940 Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

“The sensitive seismic upgrading and attention to detail has not only saved but enhanced these key historic buildings,” says Tracey Hartley of Salmond Reed Architects, the company charged with overseeing the restoration.

“The project was challenging and complex but very rewarding. We’ve had to navigate work through two COVID-19 lockdowns, long timescales in obtaining materials, labour supply issues and recent extreme weather events,” she says.

“The result is fitting for these Category I listed heritage structures of national importance and which are an extremely popular Auckland attraction.”

Lily pond & cat colonnade 1960.

Gardening staff faced the added challenge of making sure tropical plants were not lost during the renovation period. Potted plants and trees were temporarily housed in nursery glass houses and where specimens were growing in the ground, an active programme of propagating replacement specimens was undertaken.

Works began in early 2021 and were carried out in two stages with each of the glasshouses taking approximately 12 months to complete at a cost of $5.62m.

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