Auckland’s $1.5m state house “sculpture” is a reality

Credit: Greg Bowker

The lights finally have gone on in the latest addition to Auckland’s collection of public art.

The Lighthouse, a memorable version of a vernacular state house sited on Queens Wharf, is a gift to the city from Barfoot & Thompson, the real estate company which put a generous $1 million into the project.

Other arts patrons kicked in additional funds when underwriting support from Auckland Council ran into resistance. The city should be indebted for this philanthropy because the striking work will most certainly generate what the very best pubic art ought to do – promote curiosity, conversation and conviction.

At times in the last four years, Barfoot & Thompson would have been excused for thinking why it bothered…

Exactly. ?However, it’s their money, so they can spend it as they see fit. ? Can’t they? ?

Arguments have been put that no public money was involved. These are wrong. The gestation of this work has been long and difficult. Countless reports have been prepared, investigations and research was undertaken by council staff and the site itself is in public ownership.

By allowing space for the artwork, then this little piece of public property is no longer available. Furthermore, there will be ongoing costs in security for the site and possibly for the upkeep of the work, given its location beside the harbour.

It is not clear how these costs will be paid though ownership of the work rests with Auckland Council.

Well, that’s really the answer then. ?It’s going to cost public money at some stage. ?That’s if you ignore all the costs racked up thus far in studies, meetings, media management and so on.

There is still some accounting yet to surface so this aspect of the story remains unfinished.

What is clear though is that Auckland has got a new waterfront structure that speaks to many ideas. It has not escaped those involved in opposing state house sales that the placement in a very public space of an artwork which conveys an immense social history is an uncomfortable reminder of their campaign.

But then again this is clearly not a state house, though it resembles nothing else.

Or you could just drive in any direction from the sculpture for 10-20 minutes and see the actual state houses.

Barfoot and Thompson could have done anything at all with that $1m. ?Including building two town houses and putting a fund into trust to take care of their maintenance.

I know which I would have found more admirable.


– NZ Herald