Saturday, April 23, 2011

Art Deco City

In the morning, we again drove down into town, parked up, and went for breakfast at Café Divine, where Nicola immediately ran in to one of her colleagues from the Wellington City Chorus. When I could drag her away we ordered cooked breakfasts, then headed along the road to the i-site to book ourselves on a guided walk around Napier at 10am.

Before the walk could begin, we had a look around the Napier Easter vintage car show. A whole bunch of cars (and the occasional truck) were parked in the Colonnade, so we took some pictures of them.

Ant Hill Mob Car

We set out on the walk, and our guide explained about how and why Napier is the Art Deco capital of the world. For the long version, read this, but the short version is that, after the earthquake in 1931, the city’s planners, along with the New Zealand government, decided to rebuild using the styles that had become fashionable since the mid-20s – what we now characterise as Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Stripped Classical, the Arts & Crafts style, and Spanish Mission style architecture…although at the time this was all lumped together under the banner “Modernist”. In only two years, the city centre was rebuilt. Also, several buildings which had been recently built at the time of the earthquake survived, and these are also part of the history of the town. Of the 164 buildings erected between 1920 and 1940, 140 are still there today.

Amongst the significant developments of the Art Deco style is the former Bank Of New Zealand building, now occupied by ASB. This is one of the few buildings to incorporate Maori designs into the decoration.

Maori fern and wave designs on the BNZ building

Other buildings show the continuing connection to the UK in New Zealand, such as this one that incorporates Liberty’s of London into its stained glass.

Whilst many of the original buildings still stand, a lot of the shop fronts and glass have been replaced. Fortunately some remain, such as this one, the Crown Of Thorns design:

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a strong influence on the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements; his trademark rose motif is found in many stained glass works, like this now sadly defunct music shop:

After the tour we watched a short film about the earthquake and subsequent rebuilding, then went out again to look at the the city with our new-found knowledge. In amongst the ordinary shops of the city, there are a fair few antique shops that specialise in 1930s artefacts and clothing. We wandered into a couple and found out that, amongst other things, those 1920s-style beaded dresses weigh a ton! They’re full of hand-stitched glass beads, and they hadn’t figured out how to make lightweight ones.

After a spot of lunch we then headed back towards Bay View (where we're staying) check out a vineyard there. More on that later.

1 comment:

  1. This I like. Fabulous art deco stuff and v-e-r-y i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g.
    I'll stop typing like that now. But really, this is amazing. There's a smidgen of art deco likey-ness with Palm Springs, but this feels more authentic. So. Those beaded dresses. Did ya buy one ? (this bit's to Nicola, not you Rory). Next time, may I place an order ? Or are they beyond expensive ??
    Sounds like you've had /are still having a swell Easter.
    I spent Maundy Thursday in London having lunch with Prince Lorenzo de Medici and David. No, not Michelangelo's David, my David. Who knew that PLdeM still existed ? Fascinating. Anyway, he has our script to peruse. Then I hoofed off to Matty & Simon's for a bit, then back to Chelsea for dins with Kate & Bex & Matt. Good to see the goils.
    Today Ma & Pa came for lunch for Pa's b/day. We've been having a tropical heatwave this last week, so it's dining al fresco all the way with added paddling pools. Pimms + wine so I need an early night.
    David and I are off to town again tomozz to a friend's b/day bash in an actorly type pub in W14. Oooh the glamour.
    Oh, I should tell you about the Beige last week. What can I say? His Beigeness was very. Amazing that the man should be in Deal. Said hi afterwards. Good to see after all this time, etc. The other acts were . . . . Deal-ish. But it was a very funny night out.
    Well done on your travels.
    Love to both, H x