Cairns Regional Gallery is housed in one of the finest heritage buildings of Far North Queensland - the site formerly occupied by the Public Office Building. The building was designed in 1933 and completed in 1936; the architect is thought to have been R.C Nowland, who also designed the historic Cairns Post building and the original City Council Council chambers (both of which are located in close proximity to the Gallery on Abbott Street).
The two-story Gallery building is constructed of red/brown brick, steel and concrete and incorporates a number of architectural features used on other Government buildings constructed in Queensland during the same era. However, the now-Gallery building also features a number of region specific design elements, including a raised ground floor, to combat flooding, overhanging eaves to provide shade, and wide verandahs with recessed colonnades.
Similarly, the interior of the building was constructed with a strong emphasis on timber panelling, this is not only because one of the building’s tenants was the Forestry Department, but also because timber does not absorb heat.
The original principal tenant of the building was the Public Curator’s Office, however the site also housed a number of other Government offices including the State Government Insurance Office, Government Travel Bureau, Land Commission and Agricultural Bank, Forestry Offices, District Supervisor of Works, Inspector of Weights and Measures / Health / Slaughter Houses / Fruit and Diseases in Plants and visiting Tax Inspectors.
THE PROJECT BEGINS
The refurbishment of the Public Offices Building commenced in September 1994 with works undertaken by Concrete Constructions. Design work was overseen by the architectural company Total Projects Group with Norman Health Design supervising the interiors.
The refurbishment of the Public Offices Building into an Art Gallery took just under nine months, and was made possible by a successful local community and business fundraising appeal which raised almost $2.1 million to match the $1 million commitment from the Queensland Government. Local materials, craftsmen and artists were used wherever possible.
Cairns Regional Gallery opened to the public on 15 July 1995, after sixty years of visioning, planning, lobbying and fundraising. Cairns Regional Gallery is both a community service and a commercial enterprise with successful exhibition, education and collecting programs at its core.
In 2005, the Gallery celebrated 10 years of presenting excellence in the visual arts to the communities of Far North Queensland and visitors, both national and international, to the region.
THE GALLERY SPACES
The result is a magnificent Gallery, which is the largest of its kind in regional Queensland and unsurpassed for architectural and interior building craftsmanship. The ground floor Lady Norman Gallery is panelled throughout with maple and boasts a silver ash and Johnson Hardwood, or Spotted Gum, floor.
The Courthouse Room and Gallery Boardroom (formerly the Government Tourist Bureau), which are also located on the ground floor, are panelled in tulip oak and white oak. The magnificent Gallery Boardroom table is a commissioned artwork and a collaborative effort of Far Northern artists Russell Milledge and Gregory Gilmour.
The two staircases leading to the first floor, one located near the front entry, the other through the Lady Norman Gallery, are panelled with tulip oak; the stair rails are constructed from Queensland maple.
The Gallery’s first floor features the Public Curator’s Gallery, Access Gallery, Niche Gallery, Focus Gallery and Education Room. This elegant level of exhibition space is floored throughout with Chillagoe marble; the timber wall panelling is constructed with tulip and white oak.
The second floor of the Gallery, which houses the Administration Offices and Loft Gallery, was formerly a storage ‘attic’ in the Public Offices Building. This particular space was ‘reclaimed’ during the refurbishment, and is now carpeted throughout and used to exhibit the work of local artists in conjunction with the Community Exhibitions Program.
THE GALLERY TODAY
Recognised as one of the most historically valuable buildings in Far North Queensland, the Cairns Regional Gallery building is listed with the National Trust of Queensland and is included on the Heritage Register under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.
Today, Cairns Regional Gallery is completely climate controlled. Temperature and humidity are monitored to maintain a constant ‘climate’ suitable for the display of works of art; also offering visitors cool relief from the summer heat of Far North Queensland.