WOOD, Cecil Walter
A new biography of Wood, Cecil Walter appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Cecil Walter Wood was the sixth child of Robert Haswell Wood and his wife, Amelia, née Tribe. He was born at Christchurch on 6 June 1878. At the age of 16, Wood became articled to F. W. Strouts, a practising architect in Christchurch, and later worked for Clarkson and Ballantyne. When he was 23 he went to England and worked with the London County Council under F. Weir Schultze and Leonard Stokes. Returning to New Zealand in 1907 he entered into partnership with Samuel Hurst Seager, this firm later becoming Hurst Seager, Wood, and Munnings. A year or so after this Wood withdrew from the partnership and began in practice on his own account. His work at first was in the domestic field. He served in the First World War and on his return designed the Christ's College Memorial Dining Hall, a Gothic work of real distinction. At one stage he took R. S. D. Harman into partnership; at another, G. W. Bucknell. These partnerships, however, lasted only for short periods. His works in the inter World War periods were on a larger scale, notable examples being the Public Trust Offices at Christchurch and Dunedin; the State Fire Insurance, Christchurch; Bishopscourt, Christchurch; Hereford Street Post Office, Christchurch; and churches at Waiau, Woodbury, Fendalton, Taitapu, Cashmere, and Woodend. He made several trips abroad, the last one being to study ecclesiastical work in preparation for the Wellington Cathedral, his final major design. He died, however, before construction began and his plans were revised by Robert Munro.
In the course of his life he was assessor in several important competitions, including designs for the National War Memorial in Wellington, the Wellington Public Library, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
His interests were few outside his work and his home; he gave everything to his professional responsibility. His nature was most retiring; although confident of his ability, he was shy in many ways.
Cecil Wood died at Christchurch on 28 November 1947.
Cecil Wood's contribution to architecture in New Zealand was most important. At the time when he was young, ideas overseas were moving away from the battlefield of Gothic versus Classic through the William Morris and Nouveau Art influence towards a greater freedom. Men like Wood, who had travelled overseas to study these new trends, were able to reduce the time lag of this influence. In effect, architects of Wood's quality have enabled New Zealand's architectural stream to flow with some continuity and sureness of direction.
Wood was an individualist who, apart from the qualities of his design, set himself a high professional standard. The architects of today who have inherited the works of his generation have cause to be grateful for this stream of continuity. At least New Zealand architecture has never at any given time in its history been out of date too long with overseas trends. Wood's domestic work in particular was free and thorough; it was in this field – as opposed to the stylistic – that he truly and naturally expressed himself. In particular, his early large homesteads made a real mark. He could be versatile also, relying upon sound practical planning, an inherent artistry, and a sense of proportion and scale to produce his effects.
by Paul Pascoe, A.R.I.B.A., Architect, Christchurch.
Press (Christchurch), 29 Nov 1947 (Obit).