Arts building still missing final touch

By Martha McKenzie-Minifie

They were supposed to be installed last year but a landmark Auckland building is still without its "finishing touch" - a pair of art deco style lanterns at its entrance way.

The bronze lights were removed from the former 1YA radio station in Shortland St when it was made into television studios in 1959.

The University of Auckland had five years to reinstate the lanterns when it transformed the building into its school of creative and performing arts in 2000.

The deadline passed in July last year but as of yesterday, the platforms at the entrance to the Category 1 historic place remained empty.

Businessman Douglas Myers donated $1.5 million to the new school and the building was renamed the Kenneth Myers Centre under the university's ownership in memory of his father.

Ian Grant, a specialist senior architect planner in Auckland City Council's heritage division, said the council and university met several times over the issue.

"It's an ongoing ordeal," said Mr Grant.

In 2002, the council discovered the original lanterns were at a home in Mission Bay.

University spokesman Bill Williams said the discovery delayed the project but it was hoped it would be resolved soon.

Well-known pop artist Billy Apple claimed the university had dragged its feet in not putting the "finishing touch" to the brick structure.

"It's a very, very beautiful building," said Mr Apple. "Without those things at the front door, it's just a bit ho hum."

The structure from which the lanterns were cast - called a pattern - was found at foundry Millar Paterson.

Apple said the university should create a second set to satisfy the council's resource consent conditions.

"It's no different than me going to one of my old plaster moulds that I might have done in London in 1962 and giving it to a foundry who do these things and recasting another bronze from it," said the artist.

Mr Grant said the council used a similar method to obtain a set of bronze peacock lights for the Civic theatre restoration.

It had a new set of the peacock lights cast, swapping them for the originals.

Millar Paterson manager John Millar said the lanterns would cost up to $40,000 to produce.

"We'd just remake them the same way we made them 70-odd years ago," said Mr Millar. "It's not a hard thing to redo."

The building was purpose-built in 1934 as the first licensed radio station and, says the Historic Places Trust, the art deco inspired fittings emphasised the progressive aspects of the technology housed within the building.

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