When Stuart and Jan Landsborough first went to the council with plans to build Puzzling World on the outskirts of Wanaka they were told it would never work.
The council was wrong.
Nearly 40 years and 3 million customers later, Puzzling World is still working and is celebrating the latest addition to its world unique attraction.
Puzzling World’s vision for more amazement and magic in line with its philosophy of ‘puzzling eccentricity’ has materialised in the $2.5million SculptIllusion Gallery, complete with moving, living walls, floating objects and 3D illusions.
Heidi Landsborough and Duncan Spear – daughter and son-in-law respectively of Puzzling World pioneers Stuart and Jan Landsborough — put pen to paper three years ago to draft the latest optical illusion.
Ms Landsborough, Puzzling World’s General Manager, and Mr Spear, who is Operations Manager, said they were “delighted” with how architect Barry Condon of Sarah Scott Architects and Amalgamated Builders of Queenstown (ABL) had translated their vision.
They wanted to bring more light into the building and worked with Mr Condon to design a system of windows to direct sunlight into an area that was previously dark and sunless.
The size of the build also required extensive upgrading to the facility’s amenities including new stormwater and sewerage upgrades and an increase of parking spaces.
Mr Spear said the success of both the SculptIllusion room and the behind the scenes amenities was down to good relationships and good workmanship.
“For us as a family business we really value the relationship we’ve made with ABL. We really felt that they had our best interests at heart, always suggesting and researching different materials and products to improve the build or the budget,” he said.
“From the first tender straight through to completion they’ve been fantastic.”
Amalgamated Builders quantity surveyor for the project, Brett Squire, said challenges were always expected in any construction but said it ranked as one of his favourite projects in his eight years at ABL.
“It was a geometrically complex building and much of the build occurred in the winter in the shadow of a mountain,” he said.
“This meant that aside from a very cold construction site, the ground froze which affected the logic of the build and the way we continued.
“Now it’s great to think when you look at the SculptIllusion gallery that we had a hand to play in the creation of it. It’s a real showpiece and we’re immensely proud of the result.”
He said any issues were overcome by keeping an open and collaborative approach between Mr Condon and Puzzling World, something echoed by Mr Condon.
“A spirit of co-operation prevailed throughout this challenging project,” he said. “We had much positive contribution from the contractors regarding illusion items outside of the scope of their contract and often with a good sense of humour.”
Ms Landsborough said the great working relationship on site had really made the process easier, especially on a project so close to her heart.
“This addition is the final piece to the family’s legacy of providing amusement and puzzlement to Wanaka and the thousands of tourists that visit each year,” she said.
“Although we attract tourists from around the world we remain a set up that’s built on solid and positive relationships, and we really experienced that with ABL and Barry,” she said.
Officially the SculptIllusion Gallery opens in March to coincide with the business’ 40 year anniversary, but Ms Landsborough said it was already open to the public for the school holidays.
“It’s the perfect opportunity for us to look at the public’s reaction and see if we need to make any small adjustments before March,” she said.
The 530sq m illusionary sculpture room is the fifth and largest Illusion Room and was built over eight-and-a-half months by ABL for approximately $2.5 million. The attraction includes a turned-on tap that seems to float in the air, benches that seem to have no stands, a cascading ceiling, columns that become people, a vertical garden and a unique collection of sculptures from local and national artists.
We’ve been to Puzzling World with children and adults, all of whom have loved the experience.
It will be even better now.
The ODT has a story and photos here.