Complex Odeon Theatre mosaic to be preserved
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.
George Farrant from Auckland Council says the tiles all have instructions on how to reorder them.