Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, New Zealand.  Significantly smaller
in stature than the Eiffel or Opera House, but arguably as iconic.

 Eiffel Tower (Paris).  Opera House (Sydney).  Len Lye Centre (New Plymouth [NewZealand]).

That’s the theory, or at least the hope behind tourist-hungry New Plymouth’s Len Lye Centre’s iconic architecture.

The interior space use of New Plymouth’s Len Lye Centre is
as striking as the exterior.  Wayne, leaning against the wall
gives you a sense of the scale.

Ironic or deliberate, the contrast in style between the ultramodern
reflective, wavy surface of the Len Lye Centre and the town’s
adjacent classically designed clock tower is intriguing

In truth, our initial intent was to just pass through the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island on our way to scenic South Island, land of glaciers and fiords.  Christina, a local Kiwi and semi-retired schoolteacher at our campsite urged us to check out nearby New Plymouth, extolling its wholly worthwhile free attractions.  

Len Lye’s moving, “singing” sculptures were designed to be built
substantially larger than these sizable models in
the New Plymouth Len Lye Centre.  

Rather road-tripping substantial miles further Southbound that day, we decided to take Christina’s advice and peruse New Plymouth, and spend another night at our nearby campsite.

Besides, when the weather’s a bit iffy (and it was), when we have a choice, we lean more toward urban experiences rather than getting wet in the great outdoors.  After so much time sailing and in non-first world countries, these days city cultural activities are still novel experiences for us. 

New Plymouth is the primary town in New Zealand’s Taranaki region (North Island’s mid West Coast), with a population of over 50,000.  In recent years New Plymouth’s invested heavily in making the town more cyclist and pedestrian-friendly, with an 11-km coastal walkway.  

Like many New Zealand towns which got their start in the 1800s, New Plymouth embraces its pioneer architecture, though in the case of New Plymouth, Len Lye Centre is a nod to a turn of the century, yet very modern Kiwi-born artist.  Len Lye created avant garde kinetic sculptures and stylistically influential films.

Era artwork captured underfoot and protected by
a glass top in New Plymouth’s Len Lye Centre.

Opened in July, 2015, Len Lye Centre is less than a year old, with free admission.  My guess is it won’t remain admission-free, though for now it’s a good way to get the word out.

The centre’s architecture is unique, lending an energetic scale fitting for Lye’s work.  While the museum is not that large, I enjoyed its wide open spaces, movement, and looking back at work that was ahead of its time.  If Len Lye was still alive (he died in 1980), I got the sense he’d enjoy moving through the space created for his work.

Len Lye’s influence carries through
New Plymouth’s shore side promenade with
this Len Lye designed wind wand.

While New Plymouth will not likely spring to mind as readily as Paris and Sydney, the Len Lye Centre is definitely an ambitiously iconic symbol for a town of a little over 50,000 residents in a country where sheep outnumber people 6:1.  It’s well worth a detour of an hour or so if you’re headed down New Zealand’s North Island West Coast.  

We missed out on taking the extra time to visit the adjacent Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, and opted instead for a leg stretch along a portion of New Plymouth’s  excellent coastal walkway (watch for that in a future post).
With all the great expectations of New Zealand’s better known tourist attractions (Franz Josef Glacier, Fiordland and Milford Sound, action-adventure-central Christchurch, Wellington’s Te Papa), we’re finding the little surprises like the less well known New Plymouth and its Len Lye Centre more enjoyable.  They’re certainly less crowded!

From Whangarei, we drove to New Plymouth New Zealand after
first stopping outside Auckland, and Nikau Caves, as we
worked our way down to New Zealand’s South Island.
Location Location
This blog post was written about New Plymouth New Zealand, which we visited early on in our 28-day New Zealand North to South Island and back road trip.  New Zealand is roughly 1,500 miles long, and our road trip left from North Island’s Northland, and went to Bluff, New Zealand’s Southmost mainland point.  
We returned to our boat in 
Whangarei Town Basin Marina, North Island, (S35.43.474 E174.19.599) a few days ago, February 7th, 2016

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).