Com­plex Odeon Theatre mo­saic to be pre­served

Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT - CATRIN OWEN

Work is under way to save a his­toric mo­saic in the midst of an in­ner city re­de­vel­op­ment.

Ge­orge Far­rant is on the mis­sion to save a 60-year-old mu­ral hid­den in the lobby of the old Odeon Theatre on Queen St.

The mo­saic was de­signed by ar­chi­tect Mau­rice K Smith in 1957 but he never saw it com­pleted be­fore he moved to the United States.

With more than 47,300 tiles in the mu­ral it’s a time con­sum­ing and in­tri­cate job, Far­rant says.

‘‘The colours are beau­ti­ful glass, glazed and porce­lain tiles...they will last for­ever [and] they’ll never fade,’’ he says. ‘‘You think of de­mo­li­tion guys com­ing through with wreck­ing balls but they’re like sur­geons cut­ting it off and adding value."

Coun­cil­lor Mike Lee, who is also the chair­man of the Her­itage Ad­vi­sory Panel, is pleased to see the mo­saic saved.

‘‘It was al­most fi­nal cur­tains for the won­der­ful Smith mo­saic when I got a call for help,’’ he says.

‘‘Since that time the coun­cil her­itage depart­ment has de­ployed Ge­orge Far­rant in the very tricky work of dis­man­tling it.’’

Lee would like the mo­saic to be re­con­structed at one of the Brit­o­mart un­der­ground rail­way sta­tions but is open to other ideas.

Sav­ing the mo­saic holds even more sig­nif­i­cance for Far­rant as he was a for­mer stu­dent of Smith’s at the Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land.

‘‘Given that most of Mau­rice Smith’s works haven’t sur­vived, it would be unimag­in­able to not save,’’ he says.

Far­rant has spo­ken to Smith on the phone in Mas­sachusetts and says he’s pleased it can be sal­vaged.

The mo­saic is ap­prox­i­mately 7.4 me­tres wide, 4m high and weighs about 20 tonnes.

Far­rant says the team is work­ing hard to get it out be­fore think­ing of where it will be re­lo­cated.

‘‘You can put cri­te­ria around it. It was de­signed for a pub­lic in­door space where lots of peo­ple can see it like a big lobby,’’ he says.

The tiles all will be re­stored and se­cured un­til a de­ci­sion has been made. The team is work­ing hard to get the mo­saic out for fur­ther de­mo­li­tion work to be­gin on the St James re­de­vel­op­ment.

PHOTO: CATRIN OWEN

Ge­orge Far­rant from Auck­land Coun­cil says the tiles all have in­struc­tions on how to re­order them.

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