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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
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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Many people are fascinated by old buildings, and all old buildings have a history: but to be of historic interest to a community they must have been associated with events or persons of historic importance, or have architectural significance either as an example of a particular period or as a work of art.

In the first case, the building is an illustration or visual setting of the historic event or person, such as, the Treaty House at Waitangi or Bishop Selwyn's home at Waimate North. In the second case, it illustrates a way of life at a particular time and place, depicting not only a mode of living or working but also notions of art and knowledge of technology. For example, an inspection of a Maori pa at Rotorua or elsewhere gives a vivid picture of the life of the Maoris before the European settlement, their methods of building, and their artistic expression in carving, painting, and weaving.

There are few examples of great works of art, as masterpieces of design are not common, but it is a fact that notwithstanding the mannerisms of design prevalent at different times, rare examples stand out as great works of architecture, seemingly achieving the fundamental content of beauty, irrespective of their stylistic character, which gives them an intrinsic value to man in all ages. Some of the lovely European cathedrals of the Middle Ages may be cited, and in our own country, Dunedin's “First Church” is a building which is revered for its beauty irrespective of its age.

This analysis of the “content” of “historic interest” gives a basis of study; but actual examples are more complex because they usually combine in some measure the respective considerations. For example, the Treaty House at Waitangi, already mentioned, is important not only because it is part of the visual setting for a momentous event in New Zealand's history, but also as an illustration of an official residence of the very early period of the European settlement: a function it had performed for some seven years before the signing of the famous treaty. It is, in fact, one of the best examples in the country of colonial Georgian architecture.


Cyril Roy Knight, M.A., B.ARCH. (LIVERPOOL), F.R.I.B.A., F.R.S.A., F.N.Z.I.A., Professor Emeritus, University of Auckland.