Parnell Station: a ‘meanwhile’ space?

Auckland Transport (AT) has been investigating opportunities for adaptive reuse of historic railway buildings, including Parnell Station. 

Parnell Station building is not required operationally by the New Zealand Railways Corporation. Commercial use is not currently feasible but this will be an option when station area is further developed and receives more foot traffic. As an underutilised building within Auckland’s passenger rail network, Parnell Station therefore presented a compelling case for adaptive reuse. Te Tuhi proposed a positive place-making initiative, supporting land use and transport integration, public transport patronage and increasing AT’s public profile.

Auckland Transport & the Contemporary Art Foundation: A pilot business model

The now-Parnell Station is the former Newmarket Station building: a wooden shed, built in 1908, that was moved into storage when Newmarket Station became a transit hub in 2008–10. The building's exterior was restored, and then rehomed on the Parnell Station platform in 2016–17. With the Parnell Station building not currently in use, the building presented an opportunity for use as a ‘meanwhile’ space for artists.

The interior has been designed to be fit for purpose as artist studios and a gallery space while protecting the heritage of the building for future restoration. Fit out costs have been kept as low as possible in order to keep the studio spaces affordable. 

AT has funded the fit out costs, which will be recovered from the Contemporary Art Foundation (CAF) over the three year licence period. CAF passes this charge on to studio artists – the business model is net zero for CAF and AT. CAF has a licence from AT to occupy the premises. The artist studio project is managed by Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Trust, on behalf of CAF, which is a Council Controlled Organisation with the remit to promote, encourage and support the arts within Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland for the benefit and enjoyment of the local community and the public at large. 

There is a long history in cities around the world of artists making studio spaces in buildings that would otherwise be unoccupied. Te Tuhi Studios at Parnell Station adds a much needed artist studio space in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

The Parnell Plan

Objectives and strategies

Te Tuhi’s presence in Parnell, from 2019–2022, provides a unique opportunity: to engage one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading contemporary art institutions in helping to achieve the Parnell Plan vision. That is, to make Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s first suburb a thriving creative community that celebrates its unique natural, cultural and historic environment.

In particular, Te Tuhi will contribute to the Parnell Plan's objectives to promote Parnell as an innovative and creative place to work, live, visit and do business. Te Tuhi will contribute to the strategies to achieve this, by building on Parnell’s reputation as a destination for arts, culture, learning and creative enterprise.

The studios’ presence will support development, and innovative use of underutilised sites and spaces. Activity in the studios and gallery will contribute to making Parnell Station a key gateway to Parnell and the Auckland Domain. In addition, Te Tuhi is enthusiastic about bringing public art to Parnell Station and to the surrounding community.

Building history

The original Newmarket railway station (subsequently refurbished and moved to Parnell) was built in 1908 for New Zealand Railways by the Ministry of Public Works and is currently owned by the New Zealand Railways Corpration. Sir George Troup (1863–1941) is the building’s architect; it is the largest 'Troup Period' station in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. While it has a significant social and commercial history as a public building, the Newmarket Station has not been in use as a station for a number of years. Read the full history of the building here.