Housing art in a new way

with materials from the past.

The Canterbury quakes took a lot from the region. The original Ravenscar House was among the many buildings lost. Fortunately, the collection of artworks it housed survived and the owners – Jim and Dr Susan Wakefield – created a trust to rebuild Ravenscar House as an art gallery and museum. The work is nearing completion and Greg Fleming from Busck Precast talks about the unique challenges involved and the significance of undertaking a project like this.

The original Ravenscar House was destroyed in the Canterbury earthquakes. What benefit will this new building bring to Christchurch?

“The family home that was originally destroyed had a lot of history in the Canterbury area and a trust formed out of that to give something back to the Canterbury people. This new Ravenscar house is their vision to give back artwork and a bespoke architectural experience. This house revolves around the concept of how to display art.”

Ravenscar House is unique in its design. What were the main challenges faced in using precast panels to meet the design specifications?

“The irregular planes of the roof being driven by the diagonal ridgeline of the roof. Being an art gallery and building that has to house and protect artwork, it’s highly insulated. It’s also base-isolated. Irregular shaped panels and their insulation required a panel system called Thermomass – Exterior 100 mm layer with 100 mm insulation with 200 mm thick structural wall to the interior with special connection pins.”

Why was Precast the best choice for this kind of project?

“Due to the level of construction and insulation required for the safe storage of artwork and the thermal levels required for the building meant Precast did the best job.”

What learning opportunities do projects like this present for apprentices in the industry?

“Like all bespoke architectural buildings, the challenges come with new concepts, new visual finishes required. The bespoke finish that was required for the project was an NZ first. The vision from the architects was to introduce some of the original materials of the homestead including cobbles and brickworks which were saved from the demolition of the original homestead. The crushed stone products and bricks had to be placed on the face of the moulds rather than mixed in to maximise durability and achieve the best visual effect.”

The goal of the new building set out by the Ravenscar Trust was to house art in a new way with elements of the original building. This was why getting the crushed material from the original building to stay at the top of the moulds was paramount in the manufacturing process.

This type of project seems quite rare, does this kind of work keep you engaged in the potential kinds of work this industry can put out?

“What happens with these projects over the years is that it does spark more emotion and interest for the work because they fall outside the norm. Not using the normal construction methods. The level of detail that went into this building was highly influenced by the Precaster. Their work with the architect and production team was integral to determining how the shell of the building would fit together.”

Construction is expected to finish in late 2021. The completed Ravenscar House will be gifted to the Canterbury Museum by the Wakefield Trust along with the Ravenscar collections.

If you would like to know more about this project, there is a book being published at the completion of construction. Date of publication still to be confirmed.

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