Auckland Town Hall

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Auckland Town Hall
Exterior of venue viewed from Queen Street
General information
Architectural styleItalian Renaissance Revival
LocationAuckland CBD
Address301-317 Queen St, Auckland, New Zealand
Construction started1909
Inaugurated14 December 1911
Renovation cost$32.8 million
OwnerAuckland Council
Height45 m (148 ft)
Design and construction
ArchitectJ Clark and Sons
Renovating team
Structural engineerSinclair Knight Merz
Civil engineerDowner Group
Other information
Seating capacity1,529 (Great Hall)
431 (Concert Chamber)
Designated27 July 1988
Reference no.549

Auckland Town Hall is a historic building on Queen Street in the Auckland CBD, New Zealand, known both for its original and ongoing use for administrative functions (such as Council meetings and hearings), as well as its famed Great Hall and separate Concert Chamber. Auckland Town Hall and its surrounding context is highly protected as a 'Category A' heritage site in the Auckland District Plan.


Town Hall entrance from Queen Street
Overhead view of the Town Hall at night


Opened on 14 December 1911 by Lord Islington, Governor of New Zealand, the building is one of the most prominent heritage structures on Queen Street. Costing £126,000 (approximately $21 million in 2017)[1] to construct, it was designed by Australian architects, JJ & EJ Clarke, their Italian Renaissance Revival building design being selected from among 46 proposals. The five-storey building was specially designed to fit the wedge-shaped piece of land that had been acquired for it in the 1870s at the junction of Queen Street and Grey Street. It bears a striking resemblance to the Lambeth Town Hall at Brixton, London, built at around the same time. The Town Hall formed Auckland's first permanent seat of both administration and entertainment in the city's history, with its Great Hall (seating 1,673 people) modelled on the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, and considered as having among the finest acoustics in the world.

The exterior is constructed of two types of stone; the ground floor is made of a dark volcanic basalt, heavily rusticated, which contrasts with the pale stonework of the upper storeys. Oamaru limestone from the south island was used for the upper part of the building. The lower part is often assumed to be Auckland basalt but was actually sourced from Melbourne, in Australia. This was probably due to the architects already having a history of sourcing consistently good quality stone from the quarries there, as well as the availability of heavy duty steam saws to handle the notoriously difficult stone.

The interior contains several varieties of English ceramic surfaces - tessellated floors and glazed ceramic wall tiles. The semi-circular Council Chamber is fitted with wood panelling and Art-Nouveau-style electric light fittings, while stained glass is a feature of all the main rooms. The ceilings throughout all the main floors are ornamented with good quality plasterwork, the Great Chamber being the most elaborate. The great four-sided clock in the building's tower was donated by Arthur Myers (MP and former Auckland mayor) and the Great Hall's pipe organ by Sir Henry Brett. The Town Hall project was championed by Myers before and during his time as mayor (1905–1909), and one of his last acts in office was to lay the foundation stone.

The Town Hall's interior was extensively restored from 1994–1997 at a cost of NZ$33 million, partially because the unreinforced masonry structure did not meet earthquake standards. Australian engineering firm Sinclair Knight Merz pioneered various techniques to reinforce the structure without substantially changing the heritage character of the building.[2]

In 2007, the exterior underwent additional restoration work. A number of ornamental details on the exterior had been removed in the 1950s due to earthquake concerns, and some of the Oamaru limestone was damaged during aggressive stone cleaning. After careful research and analysis, these were replaced by limestone sourced from the same levels of the North Otago quarry that provided the original stone. Interior acoustic performance was corrected by the removal of earlier ill-judged and obtrusive intervention measures and their replacement by less-visible and more effective treatments. Interior paintwork was restored throughout to the original Edwardian-era colours. Complex fragmented porcelain and glazed ceramic tiling was restored with exact, new purpose-made replicas in the lavish main entrance foyer. The original carpet was recreated (for reference, a small portion of the original was left in one corner of the Council Chamber). The stained glass windows were restored and (where necessary), rebuilt and the entire building was unobtrusively fire protected.[citation needed]

Town Hall Organ[edit]

The organ after the restoration in 2010

The Town Hall Organ, dating from 1911, is the largest musical instrument in the country,[3] and is itself a 'Protected Object' in New Zealand law. It was extensively remodelled in 1969–1970 when the organ reform movement reached New Zealand, significantly altering and reducing its original Romantic-era power, discarding many parts of the original, and adding new ones to produce a then-fashionable Baroque sound.[citation needed]

The resulting compromised instrument was dismantled in January 2008 for restoration and rebuilding. The rebuilt organ, incorporating remaining parts of the 1911 original, some recently recovered components, and new elements, was built by Orgelbau Klais of Bonn, Germany. It returned to the Great Hall at the end of 2008, and was reassembled as the country's largest (and once again most powerful), organ.[4]

Auckland City had committed itself to providing NZ$3 million to the restoration project, with a $500,000 remainder obtained via private fundraising. The restored organ was officially unveiled on 21 March 2010, with a specially commissioned symphony.

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra[edit]

In early February 2016, the administration staff of New Zealand's largest metropolitan orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, moved into the vacant former mayoral office suite, making Auckland Town Hall, where the orchestra largely performs, its new home.[5]


  1. ^ "Inflation calculator". Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  2. ^ The Engineering Heritage of Auckland (dynamic link from the 'Heritage Walks' website of IPENZ)
  3. ^ "Restored Auckland Town hall organ ready to sing". CityScene. Auckland City Council. 7 March 2010. p. 1.
  4. ^ "Town hall organ tries its pipes". 18 March 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  5. ^ New Zealand Herald. "New Town Hall base for city's orchestra". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 19 April 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°51′10″S 174°45′49″E / 36.8526856°S 174.7634912°E / -36.8526856; 174.7634912