Saturday, 20 April 2013

An Art Deco City - Napier, New Zealand

Art deco in Napier

Today a bit of a look at a whole city with such a unique concentration of 1930s Art Deco architecture that, along with South Beach Miami, it is considered to be one the best-preserved Art Deco towns in the world. And, luckily for us, one of the most photographed in New Zealand. That city is Napier.

Napier, New Zealand
Napier is a seaport town, located in Hawke's Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand  about 320 kilometres north-east of the capital city of Wellington. It is the primary export seaport for northeastern New Zealand, once a tobacco capital, it now exports wine, grapes, apples, pears, stone fruit and wool.  There are over seventy wineries in the area.

Winery, Hawkes Bay
On 3 February 1931, most of Napier was levelled by an earthquake, while 4000 hectares was actually raised from under the ocean, significantly changing the areas coastline.  The centre of the town was destroyed by the earthquake, and 256 lost their lives either by falling rubble or fire.

The former Napier Fire Station building has under gone a makeover by Architect, Guy Natusch.
The Art Deco Trust is currently the tenant 

The rebuilding period after the 1931 earthquake coincided with the Art Deco era (thank you Frank Lloyd Wright)  when little "mainstreet" development was being undertaken elsewhere because of the great depression. Art Deco was new and fresh and trendy, and featured in the Hollywood movies of the time.  It was also considered cheap, as the designs were reasonably simple and efficient.

Looking the part during the art deco festival
They were also seen as being very safe - the solid reinforced and moulded concrete construction and low profile, minimalist design produced strong buildings with few ornamentations and parapets to fall down - good in case of another earthquake.  As a result Napier's architecture is strikingly different from any other city – although loosely called Art Deco, the various buildings incorporate a number of styles of the time. Stripped Classical, Art Nouveau, Spanish Mission, Neo Classical, the Chicago School and the International Style all feature. Some buildings are strictly one style and others are a combination of several. Within the various styles, certain sub-styles also emerge such as the Zig Zag Moderne, the Streamline Moderne, Spanish Deco and Maori Deco.
The Napier Marine Parade
During the 1960s, 70s and 80s a few Art Deco buildings were replaced with contemporary structures,  but by the 1990s its cultural and architectural significance was realised and it began to be protected, and restored.  Napier was nominated as a World Heritage Site with UNESCO in 2007, the first cultural site in New Zealand to be so nominated. In down town Napier alone there are 89 listed Art Deco buildings, not bad for a city of under 60,000 people.

Rothmans tobacco building, Napier
 Every February, celebrating the reconstruction of the City after the February 31 earthquake, thousands of people flock to Napier to celebrate the Art Deco Weekend Summer Festival. Music, performers, dancing in the street, planes, trains and automobiles, picnics, galas and frivolity in true vintage style bring the 1930s back to life.
Picnic art deco style at Napier
A Mediterranean climate, wineries,  vibrant cafe scene, culture, excellent cuisine and Art Deco - what's not to love.  Maybe the possibility of another earth quake - but I would love to visit.  Better start saving.......

Have you been to Napier?

Click the tumblr link for more photos of this gorgeous city.

Deb xx

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