The Len Lye Centre at Govett-Brewster Gallery. © Patrick Reynolds

Len Lye Centre: a remarkable building for a remarkable artist


The legendary Len Lye was a remarkable New Zealand artist, which is saying something in a country that has given us Kiri Te Kanawa, James K Baxter, Janet Frame and Neil Finn, for starters.

A man who crossed multiple disciplines with ease, taking in film, sculpting, painting and poetry (deep breath) it is fitting that a visionary space has been created to house some of his fantastic works. And with Len Lye, space is key: his kinetic sculptures need room to breathe and move.

This eponymous centre does that, and in a style as distinctive, innovative and inspiring as the man himself. Even if you’ve travelled the world over, even if you have the most jaded architectural eyes, you’ll be impressed by this building. It being a finalist in the World Architecture Festival Awards is an independent endorsement of that view, and from whatever viewpoint – inside, outside, near or far – it’s a stunner.

The shimmering stainless steel exterior reflects natural Taranaki light in an ever-changing, continually inspiring way, and with an energy and sense of movement that itself reflects Lye’s myriad works. Many are housed within, and if the notion of an entire space being devoted to a single artist raised concerns in your mind about sameness, remember that it’s the very singular but prolific Lye on show here.

From batik to books, sketches to sculpture and beyond, what has been achieved here is a remarkable testament to not just Lye, but art in all its forms.

There’s a 62-seat cinema inside too, showcasing not just Lye’s output but other arthouse productions, providing a regional home for an exciting annual film festival as well. Indeed, it shows that great art and superb ways of showcasing it live beyond the major urban centres; the Len Lye Centre provides another excuse (like you need it!) to visit the multi-faceted Taranaki region.

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