More wonderful architecture from the art deco capital of the world

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.

The Masonic Hotel (1932) - early streamline moderne, with the former T&G Building (1936) behind.

The Masonic Hotel (1932) – early streamline moderne, with the former T&G Building (1936) behind. I had lunch in here last week.

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.

Close-up of the former T&G Building (1936).

Close-up of the former T&G Building (1936).

Former State Theatre, a Spanish Mission design redolent of the Golden Age of Hollywood. That door on the left is about where the queue was in 1977 when I was eagerly waiting to watch Star Wars...and the theatre manager came out to say they were full. Sigh. I saw it later, of course. About ten times.

Former State Theatre, a Spanish Mission design redolent of the Golden Age of Hollywood. That door on the left is about where the queue was in 1977 when I was eagerly waiting to watch Star Wars…and the theatre manager came out to say they were full. Sigh. I saw it later, of course.  Four times in this cinema alone.

View of the town centre with Clifton and Cape Kidnappers across the bay beyond.

View of the town centre with Clifton and Cape Kidnappers across the bay beyond.

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

Coming up: Regular writing posts science, humour and all the usual stuff. Watch this space.

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4 comments on “More wonderful architecture from the art deco capital of the world

  1. jjspina says:

    Beautiful photos, Matthew! Your part of the world is lovely.

    You are right about the beauty of old buildings not being appreciated. I used to go to the Warner Theatre every weekend in Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA that was absolutely outstanding. It had balconies to the right and left of the real large stage and other balconies to the back. It had gilded statues along the sides of the balconies.

    If you can, Google the Warner Theatre and also Theater Row in Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA. At one time back in 19 20 ‘ s there were eight or more theaters in a row on one street there. I went to a few of them when I was a kid.

    Let me know what you think about them.

    • Wow – had a look, Google has a lot of amazing pix of the Warner Theatre (also checked out its website). True golden age architecture! And so wonderful it’s being kept up, it really adds something to the full theatre experience. Here in NZ, a couple of ‘golden age’ cinemas in Wellington have been restored to glory by Peter Jackson, amazing stuff.

      • jjspina says:

        Unfortunately the Warner Theatre in Mass. was demolished as was all the theatres on Theatre Row. Sad to see it all so different. I don’t go to Lawrence any more. It is too hard to look at what has been lost of the past.

        • Sounds a lot like the best Napier art deco, which was reduced to rubble before it was valued. Some of the best pieces, I might add, at the hands of faceless national chains for whom the architecture did not meet their ‘corporate look’. Sigh.

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