Designer relishes role at the MTG

By Roger Moroney

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Olivia Morris has worked extensively across the great landscape of design. Photo / Thinkstock
Olivia Morris has worked extensively across the great landscape of design. Photo / Thinkstock

Among the crew who are putting in the long hours to ensure Saturday's grand opening of the new MTG (Museum, Theatre, Gallery) in Napier is an exhibition designer who has worked at Te Papa, has created sets for theatre and dance and put in a spot of aviation work for Sir Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong.

Hastings-born Olivia Morris has worked extensively around the world, and across the great landscape of design, and is delighted to be back home in the Bay as part of the passionate MTG team.

"I came on board last December and was blown away by how much energy and goodwill this project has received from the local community and beyond," she said.

"It's fantastic for us to have this bright new space equipped to house world-class exhibitions and our treasured archives and collections."

She said growing up in Hawke's Bay (she attended Frimley School, Heretaunga Intermediate and Iona College) had given her "great perspective" in designing and setting up several of the opening exhibitions.

And her widespread and diverse experience, especially within the tight time frames of the film industry, had set her up nicely when it came to dealing with the looming MTG opening deadline this Saturday.

"It gets a bit busy sometimes, but if you're used to designing for the arts, you're used to having a dozen projects running at once."

Her main project is the exhibition Take these with you when you leave - Treasures of the archive curated by Georgina White. She is also designing the opening exhibitions Architecture of the Heart and A Glorious Uncertainty - Elisabeth Matheson's Life in Craft and is responsible for ensuring the museum is well equipped with display cases, lighting and audio and video technology.

She said there was a "wonderful variety" of types of spaces in the new museum, with the three parts of the building each having their own distinct feel and tone.

"Part of my job is being sympathetic to that, getting to know the spaces and once we're open, seeing how people use each space, how they flow through them."

It is work she refined during her 18 months at Te Papa as a spatial designer, and where she was charged with designing the touring show Unveiled which arrived from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. She also designed Kahu Ora - an exhibition showcasing the world's largest collection of cloaks.

"To be a spatial designer you have to be quite versatile, so I've worked on a lot of projects across different areas of design, from architecture through to set design for theatre, dance, and film, and even had a stint at making full-scale vintage replicas of the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver for Peter Jackson's King Kong."

She has a degree in architecture from Wellington's Victoria University and has done an exchange to the University of California in Berkeley. "Then after graduating I worked in architecture, but then shifted sideways into the film industry ..."

She said she was relishing her role at the MTG as it was an environment consisting of buildings from different eras which worked in together to offer "multiple experiences".

"There are some great personalities behind some of the archive material, you've got amazing journals and sketches which also give a strong sense of the people who were writing these journals, it's very far from static library material."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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