Napier (Art Deco Festival), New Zealand


Napier, New Zealand, is now well known for having preserved its wealth of Art Deco buildings, mostly constructed in 1931-1932, after the devastating 1931 earthquake and fire; the city hosts a huge Art Deco Festival and weekend each February (this year it was a few days after our visit)


It was the devastation of a 1931 earthquake and the subsequent rebuilding from scratch that made Napier, New Zealand, the “Art Deco Capital of the World” — to this day representing the most complete and significant group of art deco buildings found anywhere.  The population of Napier is around 60,000, with the broader Napier-Hastings-Havlock North region totaling about 130,000 people, making it the sixth largest urban area in New Zealand.  “Napier is the nexus of the largest wool centre in the Southern Hemisphere, and it has the primary export seaport for northeastern New Zealand – which is the largest producer of apples, pears, and stone fruit in New Zealand. Napier has also become an important grape and wine production area, with the grapes grown around Hastings and Napier being sent through the Port of Napier for export.  Large amounts of sheep’s wool, frozen meat, wood pulp, and timber also pass through Napier annually for export.” – Wikipedia



The “New Napier Arch” is a portal to the walkway along the breakfront constructed after the 1931 earth along the waterfront and beach, Napier, New Zealand



The T & G Building (Atkin & Mitchell, Wellington, 1936) is the tallest building in Napier; the Auckland Savings Bank (ASB) is in the foreground, Napier, New Zealand


With some friends from California who were also traveling in New Zealand, we booked a guide from the Art Deco Trust center for a two hour walking tour around town and a viewing of an informative movie made by the Trust about the 1931 earthquake, its aftermath and the incredible rebuilding of the city.  We were reminded a lot of the current preservation efforts in South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, USA to restore and preserve many of the Art Deco gems in that region. [See our blog posts from 2015, “Art Deco Walk in the South Beach District of Miami Beach, Florida, USA” and “Art Deco collection at The Wolfsonian (Florida International University), South Beach District, Miami Beach, Florida, USA”.]



Details of the ASB bank building that features Maori koru and zigzags, Napier, New Zealand



The interior of the two-story ASB bank building with interior glass and paneling under roof skylights that was a very advanced design for bringing in natural light to an interior office/work environment, Napier, New Zealand



An interior glass panel in the Criterion Hotel (which has some Moorish influences along with the Art Deco overall design), Napier, New Zealand



Details of second story windows, Napier, New Zealand



Street level leaded glass designs above the door of a jewelry shop, Napier, New Zealand



Intricate Art Deco designs above the columns and windows, Napier, New Zealand



One of the main shopping streets in downtown Napier, New Zealand, where the height limit of two stories was observed in the rebuilding that began in 1931-1932


The Napier website has a good description how the beautifully preserved Art Deco architecture became the city’s special point of difference.  “A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world.  On the morning of February 3rd 1931 a massive earthquake – 7.9 on the Richter scale – rocked Hawke’s Bay for more than three minutes.  Nearly 260 lives were lost and the vast majority of buildings in the commercial centre of Napier were destroyed, either by the quake itself or the fires that followed.  Rebuilding began almost immediately, and much of it was completed in two years.  New buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times – Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco.  Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright, had his chance to shine.  Maori motifs were employed to give the city a unique New Zealand character – for example, the ASB bank on the corner of Hastings and Emerson Streets features Maori koru and zigzags.   Napier’s city centre has the feeling of a time capsule – the seamless line of 1930s architecture is quite extraordinary.” –



Beautiful stained glass above the door and windows of a shop in Napier, New Zealand



The classically Art Deco auditorium center light in the Napier municipal theater building, Napier, New Zealand



A classical, well-preserved Art Deco office interior, Napier, New Zealand; somewhat reminiscent of some Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the United States of America



The Daily Telegraph building features many different Art Deco design motifs, including a ziggurat aesthetic and trompe-l’oeil details, Napier, New Zealand



Towards the end of our guided walking tour we visited the Napier Cathedral with its beautiful stained glass windows, Napier, New Zealand; this panel has a poignant invocation for our times: “LOVE ONE ANOTHER”