News | 19 January 2017

Molesworth Street artwork can be saved

The artwork inside the 61 Molesworth Street property has come through the demolition in relatively sound condition.

Picture of the mural inside the 61 Molesworth Street property being restored by two technicians.

The deconstruction of the building, badly damaged in the November earthquake, is almost complete with just the plant room containing an electric substation and boilers, and the mural left.

Mike Scott, Wellington City Council’s Manager of Building Consents and Compliance, says: “We wanted to save anything possible from within the building and a few items were returned to tenants, but without being able to get near it for safety reasons, most possessions could not be salvaged. Seeing that the artwork is still intact - albeit a little beaten up - is a good end to this sad story.”

Sculptor Jim Allen, well-known for his work at Futuna Chapel in Karori, was commissioned to produce the artwork in the early 1960s when the building was constructed as the New Zealand head office of British company Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). Allen says the artwork is “a sculptured concrete panel inspired by the micro-structure of naturally occurring copper crystals, building blocks of the chemical industry”.
The artwork, about 7 meters wide and 3 meters high, has been a prominent feature in the entrance foyer of the building since 1965.

“A combination of the size of the artwork, the fact it’s made of concrete, its position within the building – and the skills of the demolition workers – have all been contributing factors to this artwork surviving a 5,000 tonne demolition,” says Scott.

The Molesworth Street site is due to be handed back to the property owner at the end of January.

“The Council will work with Prime Property to support the future of the art work but ultimately any decision on what happens next with the mural and the rest of the site is up to the owner. The Council’s role was to get the building down safely and quickly and we’ve almost completed that work,” says Scott.