I thought I would conclude my trilogy of deco posts with a few more glimpses of my home town – Napier, New Zealand. The place has spectacularly reinvented itself since its discovery, about 25 years ago, of its own modernist heritage.
Today it styles itself the ‘art deco capital of the world’. And in many ways, it is. Back in 1931, a devastating earthquake destroyed the town centre. Afterwards, grand plans to rebuild after the model of Santa Barbara were scuttled by cost. Still, the architecture that did emerge was all of its day, mostly early 1930s modernism. Today it has one of the coolest collections of those styles in the world, a Californian climate – and a look that would not have been out of place in golden age Hollywood.
Want to know the sad part? When I was a kid, there was a LOT more art deco than today. Everything, back in the late 1960s, was still in its original 1933-40 incarnation – and, at the time, entirely out of fashion, faded and dowdy. It was only after a lot the best stuff was ripped down or re-made, including some of the deco footpaths, that Napier’s unique and irreplaceable heritage was suddenly rediscovered.
But ain’t that always the way?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
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