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Office art collection helps add to Auckland tower

By Campbell McIlroy

Friday 27th October 2000

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BLACK STUMP: The towering 20m Black Stump is one of the hallmark pieces in the Royal & SunAlliance Centre
Kiwi Development Trust has spent more than $1 million putting together the best office art collection this side of the black stump and it has the stump to prove it.

The towering 20m Black Stump, a collaboration between Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert, is one of the hallmark pieces in the collection in Auckland's newest office tower, the Royal & SunAlliance Centre.

Kiwi Development Trust joint managing director Richard Didsbury said the company did not want to transplant an intimidating New York-style office tower to Auckland. It wanted people to walk in and know they were in a uniquely New Zealand office building.

A 14.5m x 9m wall is filled with famous quotes from the country's history.

They range from Sir Edmund Hillary's immortal "Well, we knocked the bastard off" to David Lange's witty barb in the Oxford Union debate when he told an over eager American, "Hold your breath, for just a moment; I can smell the uranium on it ..."

Sir Ernest Rutherford's quote offers a poignant reminder of the country's pioneering spirit and No. 8 fencing-wire mentality with, "We haven't the money, so we've got to think."

But before visitors even notice the wall they are more likely to be confronted with the Device for the Assignation of Values.

The 8.5m kinetic wheel, made of brass with reflective black resin "crystals," climbs over 6m above viewers' heads before digging into the ground.

The perpetual movement is powered by an air-piston system connected to a computer programme, combining 19th century industrial roots with 21st century technology.

The collection was selected by a board including Mr Didsbury, Auckland City Art Gallery director Chris Saines and representatives from anchor tenants Royal SunAlliance and Russell McVeagh.

There are 28 works of art including rugs from Richard Killeen, John Reynolds and Gavin Chilcott; Maori carvings from Tim Codyre, Des Mohi and Neil Land; a stunning painting called Pohutakawa - Cicada's Song 1999 by Gretchen Albrecht; and the huge blue neon sculpture Coral by Peter Roche which is attached to the neighbouring Wilson White House.

The bonuses for Kiwi DEvelopment Trust comes from part of the Auckland City Council's central area section of the district plan which enables developers to build larger buildings, within the compliance regulations, in return for increased public amenity whether it be through art, landscaping or public spaces.

The works of art bonus allows a 5% increase in floor space for each 1% of construction cost spent on art.

Kiwi's $1 million investment in art translated to a 2000sq m increase in floor space for the Royal & SunAlliance Centre.

While the city plan does not restrict developers to purely New Zealand artwork Kiwi's desire to create a distinctively New Zealand feel for the Royal & SunAlliance Centre has been reflected in its exclusive use of local artists.

Mr Didsbury's passion for creating a space that spoke about New Zealand creativity and was about and for New Zealanders has earned Kiwi Development Trust a finalist's slot in The National Business Review Business Sponsorship of the Arts Awards. Award winners will be announced at a gala dinner in association with The Edge at Auckland Town Hall on November 29.

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