Seismic strengthening at Auckland Council’s Domain Wintergarden complex will improve the buildings’ safety but will affect what’s available for viewing.
The popular attraction will be affected for the next 18 months to ensure that both glasshouses meet the new building safety code, but Auckland Domain Committee Chair and Auckland Councillor Desley Simpson says that people who enjoy the Wintergardens will still be able to do so.
“We want to minimise the impact as much as possible so only one glasshouse will be worked on at a time. This means the other glasshouse will remain open, allowing Aucklanders the opportunity to still take in the beauty of the exotic plants.”
Both buildings will have steel ties installed internally with new laminated glass and stronger code compliant aluminium glazing bars placed on the roofs. This major work will add to the post tension strengthening work that was carried out on the Tropical House chimney stack in 2003.
In addition, the timber joinery will be repaired and repainted.
Councillor Simpson says that the work on the glasshouses is more than just earthquake strengthening:
“It is great to be able to not just allow Aucklanders to enjoy the Wintergardens as they were first intended, but also to make improvements, so that they will cope better with the challenges of seismic and climate change risks. It is about being faithful to the heritage of the buildings and finding sympathetic solutions to deal with these risks.”
These improvements include installing larger gutters and additional rainwater pipes and a return to the original design of clear glass on the roofs instead of the current opaque glass.
Auckland Council’s Community Facilities Head of Operations, Julie Pickering says last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns resulted in a delay to the project:
“We had to wait for the council’s emergency budget to be approved to see if funding for this important project was still available. We also experienced delays in the delivery of necessary materials from overseas.”
Originally planned to start in January, the work will begin next month. The staged renovations still allow Wintergardens’ fans to enjoy the beauty on offer according to Julie Pickering.
“The tropical house will stay open to the public while work on the temperate house is carried out. Our staff will continue to create our regular popular displays inside the tropical house. Additionally, decorative displays of temperate plants are being planned for outside the hoardings but still within the complex.”
Once the work on the temperate house is completed the tropical house strengthening can begin.
Julie says one of the challenges for the staff is making sure that examples of tropical plants aren’t lost during the renovations.
“Many of the plants in the tropical house are planted in pots. This means we will be able to temporarily move them to our nursery and production houses for safe keeping.”
For those specimens growing in the ground, the process has been different:
“Fortunately, we have been planning this project for some time,” says Julie.
“We have been very active in propagating replacement specimens for those that can’t survive the renovation. While we will lose some of the more mature plants in the tropical house, we have plenty of younger plants ready to take their place and add to the tropical wonderland that people can enjoy when the renovations are finished.”
The renovations are expected to take 9-10 months on each glasshouse. When completed, the Wintergardens’ glasshouses will be fully repaired and upgraded for public safety and to improve their seismic resilience. The rainwater system will be improved to cope with heavier downpours.