Patterson Associates shape the urban environment with an iconic design as a tribute to the pioneering artist and film maker, Len Lye

Photo credits : Patrick Reynolds
Project credits:
Project Name: Len Lye Centre
Location: New Plymouth, New Zealand
Client: New Plymouth District Council
Total Floor Area: 2000 sq.ft.
Design director: Andrew Patterson
Project director: Andrew Mitchell
Design Team: Andrew Patterson, Andrew Mitchell, Daniel Zhu, Caleb Green, Joanna Atkin
Builder: Cleland Construction 
Electrical & Mechanical: E-Cubbed building workshop
Quantity & Surveyor: Rider Levett Bucknall 
Structural Engineer: Holmes Consulting Group
Facade Engineer: Mott Macdonald
Acoustic Engineer: Marshall Day
Fire Engineer: Holmes Fire
Photography: Patrick Reynolds, Sam Hartnett, Davor Popadich

Andrew Patterson is a vivid architectural storyteller and holds a deep passion for Maori history and mythology. He has excelled as a great advocate for architecture that responds to history and landscape. Patterson Associates began with Andrew Patterson in 1986 with a strong belief that people, architecture and the environment are interlinked with each other. A building if designed on the basis of this principle will help draw people towards it in a truly meaningful bond. The firm has been successful in executing a diverse range of iconic buildings.

2paPhoto credits : Patrick Reynolds
“The design seeks to replace ‘architectural language’ with genuine meaning, create space that is more lucid, triumphant and celebrating than that of modernist traditions, while at the same time being more abstract and free flowing than axis generated architecture.” –_ Andrew Patterson

Located in New Zealand at the highest point in New Plymouth’s Town Centre is a museum stunningly designed by Patterson Architects that respectfully links into the smaller existing Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. The building was commissioned by the New Plymouth district council and financed via an extensive government led fund raising program. The Govett-Brewster having already occupied a part of the land was retrofitted in the 1970‟s from the city‟s decommissioned heritage cinema.

This project reconfigures the theatre to create one circulation loop through a single facility shared undivided by both.

“The swingiest art gallery of the antipodes” _ Len Lye

The completed structure stands as a beacon for contemporary art. The Govett-Brewster – Len Lye Centre is New Zealand‟s first museum for contemporary art devoted to a single artist, and pioneering film maker Len Lye (born New Zealand 5 July 1901 – died New York, 15 May 1980). It was Len Lye himself, who remarked, “Great art and architecture go together 50/50.” Len Lye believed that there exists a seamless tie between art and architecture. He held a deep fascination for temples. Hence it seemed highly appropriate to draw inspiration from the great halls of the classical world as well as Polynesian forms and ideas so as to develop the concept for the Len Lye Centre.

It is as an anthropomorphic temple reflecting the Polynesian tradition of a Wharenui (meeting house) with an identity in itself.

As you enter this contemporary temple, the colonnade creates a sort of theatre curtain using three asymmetric ramped sides to form a type of “pronaos”, which the Centre‟s large works gallery unveils as a blind space. Further on the colonnade hence transforms into an asymmetrical portico that introduces the main gallery as a type of primitive hall or “megaron”. A megaron is a shared platform for nearly all cultures and in the space is where the divinity now houses all art.

3paPhoto credits : Patrick Reynolds
4paPhoto credits : Patrick Reynolds

Each of the 14 meter high monolithic columns have been constructed from a single precast piece of concrete. The columns thereby reject the formal language of elements to distort the space. All that remains is the pure reflection of light.

5paPhoto credits : Patrick Reynolds
Len Lye would be dancing through the halls.” _ John Matthews, Chairman of the Len Lye Foundation

An “adyton” being the most sacred and private part of the temple, is traditionally located at a point furthest from the entrance. This section of the museum houses the Len Lye archive, while the “treasury” clearly referred to as the “Opisthodomos” looks back dramatically to the people entering below as the building’s treasury.The existing tiered galleries of the Govett-Brewster building now form the “Elatius” or grand stair, however in this scenario as a kind of cinematographic exit.

6paPhoto credits : Patrick Reynolds



Diagrammatic illustration of the highly reflective stainless steel facade wrapped around building

The building is wrapped in a curved façade of highly reflective stainless steel; which the architect refers to as “Taranaki”s local stone. Stainless steel was one of Len Lye’s most preferred sculptural materials. Hence it was selected as the ideal building material that could be implemented for the exterior façade. The reflective stainless steel colonnade façade that forms a kinetic image for all those who pass by is the most striking feature that the building exhibits. This design feature links both Len Lye’s innovation in kinetics and light as well as highlights the area‟s industrial innovation that developed as a result of its oil and gas industries.

8paPhoto credits : Davor Papodich

The reflections created on the exterior façade vary with each day and season. When the sun shines, tracery lines of light extend to create a moving pattern on the road, physically heating up the often cold public space that surrounds it.

9paPhoto credits : Davor Papodich
10aPhoto credits : Davor Papodich

The building is obviously static in nature and yet the pictures that you see reflected on its stainless steel façade are created by chance. No two views of the edifice are alike. People of all age groups that pass by take a moment to see themselves and the world anew, in a spirit of delight. Even the uninterested and distracted can‟t help but notice themselves made strange as they pass by this seamlessly designed architectural masterpiece. It continues to stay the perfect attraction for photographers who wander its perimeter and enjoy the infallibility of the building to provide a great image.

The Len Lye Centre has been developed in a holistic or adaptive way, using what Patterson calls a “systems methodology”. With its sculptural stainless steel exteriors and the subtle yet seamless interior spaces, the structure narrates to its visitors Len Lye‟s philosophies and body of work.

apAndrew Patterson


– Rhea Fernandes ,Volume Zero.

11aLevel one floor plan
12aLevel two floor plan
13aLevel three floor plan
14paLevel fourth floor plan
15paLevel five floor plan


17paPhotography credits : Sam Hartnett
18paPhotography credits : Sam Hartnett
19paPhotography credits : Patrick Reynolds
20paPhotography credits : Patrick Reynolds
21paPhotography credits : Sam Hartnett
22paPhotography credits : Patrick Reynolds
CapturePhotography credits : Patrick Reynolds
23teamDesign Team


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