The T & G Dome

Among the fascinating items in February’s Wings and Wildlife, prepared by Jessica Maxwell, is her homage to Napier’s Art Deco heritage. Here is her article. [You can download the entire February edition here.]

Napier’s Art Deco

This month, to encourage readers to venture out and enjoy the delights of living in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Wings and Wildlife goes on an Art Deco tour of Napier. 

Art Deco is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France just before World War 1 and took its name, short for Arts Décoratifs, from an exhibition held in Paris in 1925. 

In its heyday of the 1930’s, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and faith in social and technological progress. 

Considered to be the world’s Art Deco Capital, the cityscape we see today in Napier rose from the ruins of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake which devastated Hawke’s Bay in 1931. The 3.6m Spirit of Napier sculpture located in the Gilray Reserve represents Napier rising from the ashes of the disaster and the rebirth of the city. The Frank Szimay-designed landmark was gifted by the estate of the late Dr Thomas Gilray, together with a donation from Mr L.E. Harris plus funds from subdivisions. It was officially unveiled on 22 December 1971. 

The Sound Shell, and its colonnaded surround, was built in 1935. It was designed by Napier architect J. T. Watson and the Colonnade and Sound Shell were projects undertaken by the Thirty Thousand Club (which later funded Pania of the Reef). 

I read that Napier didn’t just want to rebuild from the rubble; it wanted to reinvent and restyle itself as a forward-thinking city, a place for fun and pleasure. The design came straight out of Hollywood and with it came the Veronica Sun Bay, a colonnade, three grand arches – including the so-called ‘New Napier Arch’ and, most daring of all… an outdoor dancing area. 

To reflect on the glamour of the era, the council commissioned Lyttleton sculptor, Mark Whyte, to create an elegant bronze statue. A Wave in Time is modelled on Sheila Williams walking with an equally stylish greyhound called Raven. Sheila was the daughter of a well-known architect who helped with the re-build and was Carnival Queen in a 1933 parade held to celebrate the city’s recovery. The gorgeous, now much-photographed statue was unveiled in 2010. 

A second bronze piece is of a boy who has climbed a verandah post on the other side of Emerson Street and is waving at Sheila. It was unveiled in 2014. 

The National Tobacco Company Building in Ahuriri, rebuilt after the earthquake, has a Category 1 Historic Places listing. Formerly known as the Rothman’s Building, it was built for Gerard Husheer as a tobacco processing factory and was Napier’s largest employer in the 1930’s. No expense was spared in the lavish rebuild by architect Louis Hay, with the iconic facade a major tourist attraction and one of many stops on Napier’s Art Deco tours. 

The Art Deco Trust has heaps of interesting information.

Here’s a preview of February Wings and Wildlife full content, brimming with photos. You can download the entire edition here.

This month, find out about the amazing work of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation and its incredible female Akashinga game wardens. 

Akashinga training. Photo by Brent Stirton

Pirimai Residents Association picks up a community award from the HBRC. Animals bred for their fur are enduring horrific cruelty but, thankfully, more countries are banning the vile practice. On a brighter note, Wellington Zoo makes a great destination for a family outing or a school camp. The Cape Sanctuary’s Christmas party was a huge success. And a blood donor with four legs helps save the life of a fellow pooch.

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