Sunday, January 1, 2012

Napier - An Earthquake City

Napier, New Zealand, was heavily damaged by an earthquake in February, 1931. Much of the town was rebuilt in the then popular Art Deco style. Remarkable today is the free internet access for the whole of the downtown area, only one example of the city's business community in making Napier a "go to" place.
The main part of Napier was built on reclaimed lagoons. The earthquake raised the level of the ground significantly and the present city of Napier has taken advantage of this higher ground in its modern expansion.
The coherence and continuity of the 1930s reconstruction of Napier moves the city beyond a collection of individual architectural treasures to be an Art Deco urban landscape. A real, and rare, treat to walk through.
Louis Hay was New Zealand's leading exponent of Chicago School architecture in the thirties. In this building, Hay derived the proportions from the work of Frank Lloyd Wright's, Unity Temple, Oak Park, Chicago (1905-6).
Hildebrands was a German-New Zealand training company. The building includes the attractive decoration highlighting the oceanic connection between the Germany of the Weimar Republic and the New Zealand Dominion.
Sadly Adolf Hitler was elected as head of state in March, 1933 and the old flag on this decoration was consigned to the dustbin in Germany.
For a fun description of Napier's present character see the Doctor's Review.
The city plays up its built heritage with an annual period celebration of its architecture. Each year has its own nostalgic theme inviting New Zealanders to join them for a late summer festival.
In 2007 New Zealand added Napier's Art Deco architectural legacy to its list of tentative nominations as a World Heritage Site.
Scenic Hotel Te Panea is a striking modernist building in Napier. So they are up to date too.

1 comment:

  1. What a treasure to have a city built in Art Deco style. Thank you for the great pictures.