The grand old glasshouses at the Auckland Domain Wintergarden have been ‘under the covers’ for the past two years; now, these elegant 100-year-old beauties are throwing off those covers to begin a new chapter in their life.
COVID-19 lockdowns denied the dames the chance to celebrate their 100th birthday in October 2021 so Auckland Council is reintroducing them to the public this week.
“It’s been pain-staking work to sympathetically restore these beautiful old heritage glasshouse buildings which have hosted weddings, musical recitals and APEC world leaders,” says Chair of the Auckland Domain Committee and Deputy Mayor, Desley Simpson.
The buildings have not simply been restored; they’ve been made even better.
Designed in the early 1900s by the prominent Auckland architect William Gummer and completed by his expanded practice Gummer and Ford, the two steel and glass, barrel-vaulted Victorian glasshouses have undergone seismic strengthening with additional steel ties and cleats attached to the existing structure, specially designed glazing bars added, and clear glass re-introduced in keeping with the original design intent.
The marble statues in the courtyard between the glasshouses were added in the 1920s and 30s by local businessman William Elliot.
“The sensitive seismic upgrading and attention to detail has not only saved but enhanced these key historic buildings,” says Tracey Hartley of Salmond Reed Architects, the company charged with overseeing the restoration.
“The project was challenging and complex but very rewarding. We’ve had to navigate work through two COVID-19 lockdowns, long timescales in obtaining materials, labour supply issues and recent extreme weather events,” adds Tracey.
“The result is fitting for these Category I listed heritage structures of national importance and which are an extremely popular Auckland attraction.”
Gardening staff faced the challenge during the renovation period of making sure tropical plants were not lost. Potted plants and trees were temporarily housed in nursery glass houses and where specimens were growing in the ground, an active programme of propagating replacement specimens was undertaken.
These historic treasures are now home again to a myriad of rare plant species and botanical displays.
Works began in early 2021 and were carried out in two stages with each of the glasshouses taking approximately 12 months to complete at a cost of $5.62m.
This article was first published by Auckland Council.