Auckland Art Gallery | Toi o Tāmaki

Auckland Art Gallery (Toi o Tāmaki)


Auckland City Council


Auckland, New Zealand

Year Completed


Project Value

NZ $121M


FJMT and Archimedia


ACENZ Gold Award of Excellence 2014 – Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand
World Architecture Festival 2013 – World Building of the Year
New Zealand Architecture Medal 2012 – New Zealand Institute of Architects

Holmes Team

Stuart Harris, Martin Feeney

Seismic strengthening, major refurbishment and new extensions were constructed at the Auckland Art Gallery. The fire safety design involved a challenging mix of conflicting aspirations. The existing building – one of the oldest in Auckland – was the first municipal art gallery built in New Zealand and contains the most valuable public art collection in the country.

To retain the building’s heritage features, sensitive refurbishment and upgrading fire safety was of utmost importance. Key features of the architectural design include the impressive four storey north atrium and the three storey south atrium. The new and refurbished parts of the building required large, interconnected open plan spaces with a high degree of openness and visual connection to adjacent galleries and atria.

Because the building has to deliver very specific performance requirements, the fire safety engineered solution was equally performance focused: innovative to suit this client and this architectural design. The regulators expressed concern about the number of design issues that were required to vary from ‘standard fire approaches’ and insisted on an extreme level of engineering justification. Holmes Fire responded with engineering design solutions that addressed the significant challenges of this unique architectural masterpiece.

The fire engineering brief evolved over five years, with contributions from art curators, gallery event managers, international exhibition advisors, architects, security consultants, structural and mechanical services engineers, Fire Service and Auckland Council regulatory reviewers. The final fire safety strategy successfully achieved the outcomes required by the fire engineering brief.

Holmes Fire used computational fluid dynamics analysis to model smoke movement and also evaluated the movement of people in a fire emergency, using a variety of engineering building use scenarios for safety and robustness. The main public circulation routes are also used as principal fire egress routes (allowing fewer dedicated egress stairs than prescriptive regulatory requirements).

Holmes Fire coordinated a detailed review of fire protection requirements in all areas storing and displaying art. Holmes Fire designed the systems controlling fire and smoke spread to protect the building, the art collections and the building occupants. ‘Standard’ solutions for exit signage and security on exit doors were modified to suit the specific requirements for this building.

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