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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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Architecture, considered as a cultural expression, is the outward and visible sign of the changing patterns of thought, life, and society. As Gowans has pointed out (Architecture in Canada, 1958), the following patterns, operating simultaneously and often superimposed on one another, are apparent in the development of any styles of housing.

  1. Man's successive stages of dominance over nature and his environment expressed architecturally by his command over materials and by the relationship of his buildings to the space or nature around them.

  2. National tradition expressed in architecture as the development of certain consistent preferences, particular kinds and ways of decoration, proportions, organizations and materials.

  3. Changing beliefs about what constitutes “architecture” as distinct from “mere building”. This involves both aesthetic and philosophical ideals.

  4. Successive historical styles which result from the interaction of these broader patterns, and particularly from the sharp conflict between the cultivated tradition of academic architecture and the vernacular tradition of unselfconscious common people.

None of the arts in New Zealand, “useful” or fine, has ever existed in isolation. For the first hundred years our architectural history has continued to reflect the provincial dependence of remote, “genteel” traditionalists, belatedly adopting overseas fashions but with a steadily diminishing time lag between the distant cultural centre and the isolated provinces. Remoteness fostered the snobbery of the overseas product which persists to the present day. Though the heart remained in the “home country”, the home lay in the New World of the Pacific, and the building forms, materials, and techniques have more in common with those colonial brothers–Australia and West Coast America–than with the mother of all, Victorian England.

The history of domestic architecture measures the progress in standards of comfort and convenience and the development of mechanical equipment. The basic task of the builder–sheltering man, his work, and his possessions in structures that give spiritual as well as material gratifications–remains constant.


James Garrett, A.N.Z.I.A., Architect, Auckland.

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