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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.



School of Design, Wellington

Better known till recently as the School of Art, Wellington Technical College, the title is a reintroduction of the original designation. It dates from 1885 when the Wellington Education Board appointed Arthur Dewhurst Riley, a 25-year-old Englishman who had been teaching art in Sydney, to be the first drawing master of the School of Design. In 1886 three rooms on the top floor of an insurance building at the corner of Brandon and Featherston Streets provided the original school and office accommodation. Contrary to usual procedure, the School of Design was to grow under the remarkably able Riley into the Wellington Technical College. In 1888 the Design School became affiliated with the South Kensington Art School, London. Classes had grown, the syllabus widened, the staff increased, and in 1891 the original inadequate premises were relinquished and a new building in Mercer Street housed what was then called the Wellington Technical School. James McLachlan Nairn, from Glasgow, was appointed and life classes commenced. Nairn was a fine painter whose own work came to be highly regarded. He was the founder of the Wellington Art Club in 1892 (the club is still active) and such was his influence that emphasis shifted from design to painting.

In 1922 the first students attended the present building on the Mount Cook Reserve, but the art block was not completed till 1931. Members of the staff have included A. R. Fraser, Maud Sherwood, J. M. Ellis, Nelson Isaac, Roland Hipkins, F. V. Ellis, and C. T. Laugesen. James B. Coe is the present head.

With the School of Design established as a Polytechnic department and separated from the Technical College (as from 1962) it is hoped to provide advanced training for designers who will be kept in close touch with industry. A three-year course planned on Bauhaus lines, has now been successfully established.

by Stewart Bell Maclennan, A.R.C.A.(LOND.), Director, National Art Gallery, Wellington.