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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.



Changing Styles

After the turn of the century, architecture changed but was still conservative. Some of the architects of this period were really gifted, such as F. W. Petre who designed a great number of Roman Catholic works, very classical, in the South Island. Samuel Hurst Seager was another; he developed a “cottage” style for houses and did special research into art gallery lighting. In England at this time there was a strong movement towards art nouveau and neo-classicism, though prior to the First World War only the glimmerings of the modern movement were to be seen. Understandably, there was little impact on New Zealand. Travel facilities were limited and few architects could afford to travel abroad for study before they finally commenced practice in the land of their birth. But, with the return of peace, many students and architects who had been in the forces, stayed on in England for further study, and thus they brought back with them new ideas which slowly influenced contemporary architecture. In the interim period between the two World Wars, many well designed buildings were created. Men like W. H. Gummer, Horace Massey, Cecil Wood, and Gray Young brought work to a new level. Buildings and works such as the Bridge of Remembrance, Christchurch (Gummer), the Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial at the Petone (Massey), the Public Trust Office, Christchurch (Cecil Wood), and the Wellington Railway Station (Gray Young), were examples of the scholarship and skill that could produce such designs. Although the critic of later periods may point the finger of scorn at some of these, we must consider such works as milestones of progress and, further, that they laid a foundation of respect for public architecture. It is upon this foundation that the architects of the contemporary “modern” movement began to build. Some such examples were planned before the Second World War, but it was with the peace that the real opportunity came. One of the major architects of the late forties and fifties was Gordon Wilson, who after being a partner in Gummer and Ford of Auckland, became the architect for State housing and, finally, Government Architect. In this position he had more influence upon the design of public buildings of the period than any other single person. He swept away the cobwebs from the Ministry of Works architectural division, and showed sound judgment in his approach. Under his influence, together with that of a group of the less powerful (because of less opportunity), New Zealand public buildings could be compared favourably with many abroad. Examples of the work of Wilson's office are Government Buildings in Auckland, the School of Engineering, Christchurch, and the Departmental Buildings, Wellington.

In other branches of the Civil Service good work was also going on notably in hydro-electric architecture under F. H. Newman who brought from Europe a welcome addition to the New Zealand tradition. E. A. Plischke, another continental, who with Cedric Firth was responsible for the Massey House offices in Wellington, was another innovator. In later years, the school of architecture at Auckland, under Professor C. R. Knight, developed into a fine teaching centre, and many Auckland graduates, after experience abroad, became powerful designers in the new tradition. Among these may be listed Professor Toy, Ian Reynolds, E. J. McCoy, and Miles Warren, who designed respectively the Ponsonby Church in Auckland, the Victoria University Library in Wellington, Aquinas Hall, Dunedin, and the Dental School at Christchurch. Apart from the accepted requirements of public buildings, that is, those of hospitals, schools, offices, and the like, there are new demands such as those set by the air age for the creation of transport terminal facilities. The Air Terminal at the Christchurch International Airport, and the Momona Airport, Dunedin, come within this classification, and each in its way sets a high standard for overseas and internal air travel.

Next Part: Modern Trends