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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Napier. Art Deco Capital of New Zealand

Took another long bus from Wellington to Napier. 
It's called NakedBus and apparently you don't have to be naked to ride NakedBus. 

Walked a short distance to my hostel. It is in the old Criterion Hotel. My room. 3 bunks but no roommates. Thank you lord. I don't think I can tolerate another slob.

Neat door handle.

This is in the lobby stairs. The Norfolk Pine in this stained glass window is the city emblem. These pine trees line the main road into town on both sides.

The entrance. Great example of Art Deco typeface. And a reflection of me taking a photo. 

Here is the outside of the hotel.

The lobby.

So here is the scary facts. 
7.8 earthquake on the richter.
Lifted the whole plateau 6 feet.
The quake last over two and a half minutes!
 I don't know about you but the couple of 5 magnitude minor trembles I felt that lasted under 10 seconds scared the heebee jeebies out of me. I can't even fathom over 2 minutes!

So basically the Victorian and Edwardian buildings that were Napier all tumbled or burned. The city rallied and decided to rebuild and just two short years later, voila. The new Napier.

Architects from all over the world came and contributed. So while they adhered to the style of the time, there was plenty of individuality.

The domed building, one of the only 3 story structures with a deco tower in the foreground. 

So what is Art Deco? 
You can wiki it here.
Or my view of it is a movement, short lasted, mainly around the 20's that lasted through the 30's, that focused on symmetry, movement and speed.
It started with influences in Art Nouveau which has a more organic flair and that was premiered in Paris at the 1900 expo.

The general principles are Egyptian and in the case of Napier even have some Maori highlights. Of the 40+ buildings that are Art Deco, only 4 have Maori detailing.
This is the Masonic Hotel. Had a great lunch here. 

3 lamb sliders. OOHHHH

I love bathrooms. Especially fancy hotel bathrooms. This one, while moderately Art Deco was quite nice with the subway tiles, dark wood and checkered floor tiles.

This one had a great mirror.


Now I was warned this town shuts down at 5pm and boy they weren't kidding. This cafe was the only place open till 6 and I sat in this window seat, right under an exceptionally beautiful stained glass window and I didn't even notice it until the next day.


The Daily is one of the most ornate and detailed of all the Art Deco buildings in town.


Fountains at the top of faux columns.

Most of all the buildings have these wonderful skylights. 
As each building is bought and restored, many are finding these have been simply covered up by installed drop ceilings. 

Even the door handles show the ziggurat style.

The next morning I woke up early so I could go back to all the buildings I saw on the walking tour the afternoon before with this nice fellow.

Another great door handle.

Even the door knobs are linear. 

A beautiful skylight in a 'solicitors' building. Anyone who is a Sherlock fan will know what that means.

And the lights are also often restored. 

The inside upper level. Two cheeky businessmen asked if I wanted to take their photo. 

And the floor. Excellent cubism example.

The colors were also unique. Today we paint buildings the colors we  want but back then, they actually mixed the paint into the concrete. The construction of the times was reinforced concrete with rebar. 

Gorgeous little pharmacy building.  

A great example of the mixture of Spanish Colonial, although used less than say Egyptian motifs.

This neon sign was restored but 1930 saw the first ever neon to be made.

Notice the granite and brass detail around this entrance. Typical materials of construction. As buildings are being restored, multiple layers of paint (sometimes a dozen) are stripped away to reveal these beautiful granite facades. 

And the streetlamps are cubic and black gloss.

Now let's talk glass. Again, many of the original buildings have gorgeous stained glass on the top half of the windows. 

The sunburst. 

The ziggurat.

More sunbursts.

A great cubism design yet with the feeling of movement.

The next two are reproductions. Many of the larger chain stores when deciding to establish a storefront here, buy into the Art Deco theme and make extensive efforts such as this store to replicate, as authentically as possible, the original glass should it have been destroyed as this shop was.

This was a bottle/chemist shop. As evidenced by the pharmacy bottles and libation glasses.

Another great ziggurat.

Next I went to the Napier Municipal Theater and snuck inside the main lobby.

Excellent carpet. For those of you who have been to my condo, you'll recognize the tell-tale Art Deco motif on my living room sofa and chairs. It took nearly 3 years to find that fabric.

This is the main audience hall light. A very nice man who was cleaning decided to give me the full tour in 10 minutes as he was busy but could see how much I loved this stuff. He lit all the lights...

A beautiful wall sconce. 

Did you know New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote? Well this leaping nude female adorned the main exit from the theater and many a Napier housewife did not like it.

Neon is a big deal. This light you may recognize from the first lobby photo, now lit.

View of light from directly below. This is one of the first neon lights ever made. 

The Greyhound dog was also fashionable during this time as it exemplified the points of Art Deco. Sleek with Speed.

 This is a great Egyptian example. Note the column decorative tops. 

Another beautiful skylight fully restored. 

So after walking around Napier for the better part of 6 hours. I stumbled upon this. A construction company in the process of demolishing this Art Deco building. According to the Art Deco Society and Preservation group; for the right fee to the Napier council you can do whatever you want. Send them an email...tell them what you think of that.

That's right folks....none of these buildings are protected.

Maori Design. There are only 4 buildings with Maori motifs.

The circular design is of the fern. 

This is the ceiling of a bank. Again, wonderful example of Maori.


Fountains are also represented.  

This is one of the only businesses where the original plaster name on the top section is the same as the current lower, balcony signage. 

This one too. 

Art Deco right down to the manhole covers.

And drain grates.

Tiles were important too. 

I've always been quite enamored with Art Deco. 
I fell in love with the city and leave you with some more parting photos.

Next stop Hobbiton!