Media Release: Restoration Work Underway at Iconic Turnbull House
July 24, 2023 | Stories



Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga is pleased to announce that much-anticipated seismic strengthening and restoration work on historic Turnbull House is getting underway on site this month.

Nestled amongst high rises in the heart of Wellington’s Parliament Precinct, the restoration project will ensure the iconic building, once home to one of the nation’s earliest and most significant libraries, remains part of the architectural and cultural landscape for generations to come.

Listed as a Category 1 historic place, the building forms part of the Government Centre Historic Area, both of which are recognised on the New Zealand Heritage List Rārangi Kōrero. The distinctive brick building is an eclectic mix of Scottish Baronial, Queen Anne, and Medieval stylistic elements and was constructed during 1915–1916 as the private home and library for nationally significant collector and bibliophile Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull (1868–1918).

Following his passing, Turnbull’s collection was bequeathed to the government, and two years later the house, purchased by the government from Turnbull’s estate, opened to the public as the Alexander Turnbull Library. Considered a research collection of international standing, the materials contained within Turnbull House became one of the principal components in the establishment of the National Library of New Zealand.

After the relocation of the Alexander Turnbull Library collection to its current Molesworth Street site in 1973, the building became home to a range of commercial, cultural, artistic, social, institutional, and educational functions. Stewardship of the building was transferred from the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga in 2017.

The restoration is a complex multi-year project involving careful planning and execution to ensure the building's structural integrity and heritage values are preserved. It will focus on strengthening the building and improving seismic performance through base isolation, improvements to climate change resilience, and restoration of the external cladding, windows, and roof to their former glory.

Onsite works this month includes the erection of scaffolding around the building to provide safe access for the restoration team. Hoardings will also be installed around the site to ensure pedestrian safety.

With the aim of creating a versatile and unique venue, visitor destination, and public space, Turnbull House will be adapted to improve accessibility, and the interior modernised to create a welcoming visitor experience.

Bringing together a range of experts and experience, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga is proud to be leading this project in partnership with Octa Project Management, Warren and Mahoney Architects, Dunning Thornton Consultants, Stephenson & Turner, R&D Architects, Rawlinsons, and Naylor Love, and acknowledges the significance of Turnbull House to the city's cultural and historical identity. As such, the organisation is committed to ensuring that the restoration work is conducted with the utmost care and respect for the building's heritage values.

Dr Jamie Jacobs, Central Region Director for Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, says he is delighted to see work getting underway.

"Following extensive planning and design phases, we are pleased to be starting onsite work on this significant restoration of Turnbull House. This is an important heritage building that holds a special place in the hearts of Wellingtonians and visitors to the area.

“We are committed to delivering a high-quality restoration project that will ensure Turnbull House remains a prominent feature of Wellington's heritage landscape for generations to come.”

For further information on the Turnbull House project, visit:


Adrienne Hannan
Kaiwhakahaere Whakapā, Whakatairanga hoki | Manager Communications and Marketing
027 683 9065

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