Auckland Art Gallery has won an international award never before given to a New Zealand building.

The gallery was awarded the International Award for Architectural Excellence from The Royal Institute of British Architects.

Twelve buildings a year are given the honour, which distinguishes the world's most imaginative, dramatic and eco-friendly buildings.

It is one of several awards the Auckland Art Gallery has won this year.


Director Chris Saines said that the aim was to develop a world-class gallery.

"This heritage-restored and expanded building has become a flag-bearer for the city's architectural and urban design future."

Mr Saines said the number of awards "speaks volumes" about the quality of the design team but also acknowledges all the people involved.

Architecture firms Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp and Archimedia designed the upgrade in 2008 and the building was finished late last year.

Since then the gallery has housed successful exhibitions such as Degas to Dali, which has attracted 99,000 visitors.

Auckland Art Gallery will open Home AKL on July 7, an exhibition about the work of contemporary Pacific artists, most of whom live in Auckland.

Mayor Len Brown praised the gallery on the success of the remodel.

Auckland Art Gallery has been in the city since 1888 and houses a collection of more than 15,000 works.