It’s all about Art Deco in Napier, the architectural style that typifies many of the buildings that rose from the devastation of the Hawkes Bay earthquake. The earthquake shook Napier’s business district from its foundations on the morning of 3 February 1931. More than 250 people died in the Hawkes Bay region and buildings that didn’t collapse in Napier’s city centre initially were then mostly destroyed by fire and subsequent aftershocks.
But like the Art Deco image of the rising sun, Napier’s city centre rose again and by 1933 was almost entirely rebuilt. Four local architecture firms worked together resulting in a mix of designs popular at the time including Spanish Mission, Prairie Style and most notably, Art Deco.
Today Art Deco Trust at 7 Tennyson Street offers guided walks and tours, and generally works to promote and preserve Art Deco in Napier. The Trust also organises the annual 1930’s themed Art Deco Festival in February, and it’s not just about the architecture, visitors dress in Deco attire and vintage cars line the streets.
I bought a self-guided Art Deco walk brochure ($7.90), you can also download it, handy if they run out of brochures as they had last time we were in town. I learned that decorative features like zig zag motifs, geometric patterns and the rising sun characterise Art Deco style. (Halsbury Chambers below is not in the brochure, but the design above the door looks like the rising sun to me, however the building is described as Stripped Classical style).
Leaping deer and greyhounds, prancing women, and fountains are popular too as ‘symbols of freedom and the dawn of a new age’. I didn’t see any leaping deer but the dog in the ‘A Wave In Time‘ bronze statue on Emerson Street looks like a greyhound and Sheila could be prancing.
The Daily Telegraph building has plenty of Art Deco elements including symmetry, zig zags, small fountains (underneath the letters), and geometric shapes on the metal balcony.
The orange building above is the former Bank of New South Wales, the patterns (below) are Mayan ferns and flowers, another decorative feature of Art Deco. The brochure notes that the discovery of King Tutankahmen’s tomb in 1922 created interest in ancient cultures.
The Hurst’s Building below was one of only two Art Deco style buildings Napier had before the earthquake, it’s the only one that survived.
Sunbursts and zig zag borders are obvious features of the former Hotel Central on the corner of Dalton and Emerson Streets.
One feature that makes Napier unique to the rest of the world is the use of Maori designs. A good example is the interior and exterior of the ASB Bank on Emerson Street. If you are especially interested see the brochure Maori Deco in Napier.
Visitors are welcome to take photos inside the bank. The red, black and white designs are kowhaiwhai patterns and are often found on the rafters of Maori meeting houses.
Another example of Maori design is on the exterior of Napier Antique Centre at 65 Tennyson Street.
If you’d like to theme your visit with a stay in an Art Deco hotel, next on the blog is a post about Masonic Hotel.