Friday, 16 March 2012

A day of Decodance

Napier is a small city located in Hawke's Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island. This region is renowned for it's Mediterranean-style climate (enjoying some of the highest number of sunshine hours in New Zealand) and producing some of the world's finest wineries, as well as being New Zealand's largest apple, pear and stone fruit producer. However, it's that the events that took place on 3rd February 1931, which have largely defined Napier as the self-proclaimed "Art Deco Capital of the World". It was on this day that a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake known as the Hawke's Bay Earthquake claimed 258 lives, making it New Zealand's greatest natural disaster.

The mosaic designed by local artist, Liz Earth incorporates the poster of the 1933 New Napier Carnival
The city was quickly rebuilt in the Art Deco style (including Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Chicago School styles) as this was the popular style of the time and as a result Napier has the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, even rivalling the South Beach area of Miami. What makes the architecture in Napier so captivating is the use of Maori design elements and motifs, which are found nowhere else in New Zealand.

This year is the 81stanniversary of the Hawke's Bay Earthquake and the 24th Art Deco Weekend, which is one of the largest events of its type in New Zealand. It is also the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), hence the theme "A Tribute to Aviation.

With the Art Deco Weekend in full swing we took part in one of the Art Deco Trust's guided tours called "Deep in the Art of Deco Walk". This was a unique opportunity to explore Napier's Art Deco interiors to learn about some of the best-kept secrets. The walk was two hours long and took us inside ten buildings which aren't normally accessible to the public. Starting off at the Prairie style Clive Square Community Centre (1925) we walked down to the Municipal Theatre (1938) to check out the foyer area, followed by the mezzanine of the Daily Telegraph Building (1932).

The neon lighting in the Municipal Theatre is reminiscent of the Hollywood era
The light fittings in the Daily Telegraph Building are replicas of the originals
View looking up in the foyer area to the mezzanine floor
We then visited the recently restored Harton's Building (1932) is one of two buildings in Napier with barley twisted columns, and the 1935 extension of the Edwardian-style County Hotel added to the western half of building. The County Hotel is now the only example of a Victorian-Edwardian classical style building that survived the devastating 1931 earthquake.

The internal leadlights of the County Hotel are a mixture of Art Noveau and Deco-eqsue shapes
The grand piano in the lobby area of the original 5 star hotel in Napier
The original Edwardian exterior of the hotel

The Spanish Mission style Hartson's Building was designed by E.A.Williams
This is considered one of the finest shop fronts in Napier
The building has always been a music shop and was once owned by Neville Hartson
Rounding off the tour we saw the impressive Louis Sullivan inspired old AMP Building (1934), the Stripped Classical Former Government Buildings (1938), the Maori decorated ASB Bank (1932) - apparently this is one of the best examples of a European-use building of Maori design. The final buildings were two office buildings, the first being Devon House (1934), which was designed by the famous Auckland architects, Gummer, Ford, Hoadley & Budge, as well as the enchanting glass dome in the Sainsbury, Logan & Williams Building (1932).

Hanging light fitting in the Old AMP Building
The safe to the Old AMP Building which is now the New Zealand Wine Centre
Heavy bolts indicated an early form of "Constructivism" in the Former Government Buildings

The Stripped Classical entrance

The external parapet of the ASB Bank has an authentic Whakairo design
The impressive coffered ceiling is bordered by a Kowhaiwhai design
In corner of the ceiling panels are Taiahas (spearheads)
Etched glass Art Deco design in the doors of Devon House
The building's glass ceiling was revealed after it was refurbished in the mid 1990s
Foyer area with additional mezzanine floor
Sainsbury, Logan & Williams Building has always been the offices of Hawke's Bay oldest legal firm
The glass dome in all its glory
More photos of the various Art Deco buildings around Napier from our original trip can be found my flickr photostream on the following link.
Throughout the streets there were lots of people dressed up in the 1930s style to get in the mood for the weekend and there were plenty of vintage cars on show. There were all sorts of makes and models pre-dating 1946 including Fords, Buicks, Chryslers, Jaguars, Plymouths, Rolls Royces, plus many others. It's possibly the greatest number of classic cars I've ever since all in one place.

A vintage Rolls Royce

A dapper gentlemen admiring a classic Austin car

A Chrysler hood ornament similar to the ones found on the Chrysler Building in New York
Possibly one of the most famous Art Deco buildings in the world, the Chrysler Building
Later on during the day we caught some of the flying display where some classic war planes thundered through the sky above the Sound Shell performing a variety of death-defying stunts. More impressively was the navy helicopter circling around in front of the Veronica Sunbay - at one point someone from the helicopter was winched down and flown around above the ocean!

The RNZAF Red Checkers were thrilling crowds above the Colonnade
Some impressive helicopter manoeuvres in front of the Veronica Sunbay

The real highlight of the evening was the Big Sounds Tonight event at the Sound Shell. As the sun was setting over Hawkes Bay, the Hawke's Bay Jazz Club Big Band we're playing all the hits from 1930s to a decent size crowd in the Colonnade. People were dancing at the front of the Sound Shell and plenty of others brought folding chairs to get a decent view of the stage.

Hawke's Bay Jazz Club Big Band on the Sound Shell

In the interval we had time to check out a World War II search light down by the main beach and to take some pictures of the colourful Tom Parker fountain as it was providing a visual spectacle with it's lights and water jets display.

Lizzie by the World War II searchlight
The enchanting Tom Parker Fountain

No comments:

Post a Comment