Friday, January 26, 2007

Napier-Deco City

When we were in Fiji, we met a couple from New Zealand who, upon hearing I was an architect, said we had to go to Napier. I’m so glad we did.

On February 3, 1931, the town of Napier was virtually destroyed by an earthquake. The city fathers decided to rebuild. In order to make it happen quickly, rather than allow the City Council to make decisions, they appointed two people to oversee the reconstruction, and within three years much of the downtown was rebuilt…in the art deco style. It is all quite impressive. But what is so interesting is that I had never heard of Napier before being told about it in Fiji.

These photos will hopefully give you some idea of what the place is like. Unfortunately, while the city is well aware of what it has going for it, and is marketing its ‘Deco City’ label, there doesn’t seem to be any real effort to control the retail signage. As a result, the streetscape is not as impressive as it might otherwise be.

After leaving Napier for Wellington, we visited Hastings. The Lonely Planet guidebook described Hastings as ‘a utilitarian agricultural town with tractors on the streets and little of the chutzpah Napier manifests so readily.’ Well, I don’t know what happened to the LP authors in Hastings, but I couldn’t disagree more. As you can hopefully see from the photos, the downtown streets are lined with attractive Art Deco and Spanish Mission style buildings, and tied together with continuous canopies, with hanging baskets and planters. A very clever central fountain is bisected by the railway line, and public art can be found, including this group of sheep who wandered in from the nearby hills.

There are also wonderful street works, with very elaborate paving under the parking and at crosswalks. It reminded me of what we are trying to do at UniverCity!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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