Len Lye Centre

Stainless steel gallery shines a light

December 08, 2015

Len Lye Centre

The Len Lye Centre is New Zealand’s only single artist museum and project architects Patterson Associates say its design is deeply influenced by the life, ideas, writings and work of Len Lye (1901–1980). The new art gallery which opened in July 2015 in New Plymouth, is spectacularly clad in mirror stainless steel and dedicated to the works of the New Zealand born sculptor, kinetic artist and filmmaker.

Stainless steel was chosen for several reasons. It is highly dramatic in its own right, and Len Lye often used it as a material for his giant sculptures. The undulating surface of the building bounces light through a new urban square, lightening up darker spaces. And it’s a material which will withstand the test of time in a maritime location.

The stainless steel façade hangs over sculpted concrete columns. A channel in the stainless steel sheeting is secured onto the concrete using a pin arrangement that fits through to slots on both sides of the channels—so the panel is dropped onto the pin. The intricate fixing design allows for movement of heating or cooling during the day.

Patterson Associates worked closely with New Plymouth stainless steel fabricators, Rivet, to work out the best way to fabricate and connect the panels to create a seamless façade. Local supplier Steel & Tube Stainless had the challenge of sourcing the 32 tonnes of Type 316L (UNS S31603) stainless steel with a no. 8 finish (highly reflective). The oversize mirror stainless with a bright annealed finish was fabricated into more than 540 sheets that fit together over the concrete structure. It was laser cut to size with slots to enable the hanging system. The sheets were then folded 90 degrees to create the edge onto the channels and finally put into formers to make the curves that the architects were looking for.

The Len Lye Centre creates powerful and memorable experiences for local and international visitors alike—generated by the art and ideas of Len Lye and of course by its spectacular exterior.

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