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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.



Types of Buildings

The major work of the urban community is performed in buildings; indeed, its efficiency is largely governed by their architectural merit. This fact was quickly recognised by the primary producers who, while content to live in modest, or in some cases, primitive houses, insisted upon the construction of butter factories, wool stores, and meat-processing buildings of great efficiency. Consequently some architects have specialised in this work and designed buildings of international significance.

The early buildings of the urban community were primitive and, apart from some places of worship and the occasional civic structure, were built mainly of timber. During the seventies and eighties of last century, and again in the early part of the present one, many substantial buildings were erected to service the growing functional importance of the urban areas. These, for the most part, were “prestige buildings” for banks, insurance offices, and public buildings of various kinds. The designs followed the prevailing fashion of the post renaissance; a period of revivals, Greek, Roman, or Gothic. Every town and city have examples, severe, dignified, and sedate. They were, perhaps, expressive of prosperity, but it cannot be said they made any significant contribution to architectural development.

Houses in the first phase were simpler, functional, primitive but honest; later they adopted the mannerisms of the Victorian period but with certain characteristics of their own, expressed in gables and verandas by carved and decorated finials, barge-boards, and balustrades of an infinite variety in design. Later, the Revivalist cult was seen in designs based upon Georgian, Spanish Mission, and other styles adapted for local use from overseas prototypes. Many were dignified and refined and thus expressive of cultural growth.

The most recent development in the urban scene is the merging of industry and manufacture into the functions of the city. This, together with the freedom of architecture from stylistic fashions, has given impetus to the design of buildings based upon their efficiency of function. It has produced many fine industrial groups streamlined to efficient processing combined with a pleasing form and landscaping so necessary for the contentment and retention of staff. Yet, in this formative period, there are still too many industries struggling to reach efficiency in altered or adapted buildings of ancient lineage.

The change in the approach to design is also seen in the latest buildings for other urban uses. Commercial and administrative buildings of many types are planned about the needs of space and of light and air. Aided by the technological advances made in building materials and methods of construction, they have clean and simple lines and distinctive architectural form. In houses, emphasis has been placed upon efficient plan arrangements, the opening up of the house to sunlight and view, and the adaptation of the building to its site and environment. It would seem that architecture is keeping pace with the changing needs of the growing urban areas by providing the building requirements for their orderly development.

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