Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dynamic Deco

Water and Fire are Tamed for Man's AdvancementHere are some photos of the etched designs in the foyer of Te Puni KĊkiri House (the former State Insurance building) on the corner of Lambton Quay and Stout St. The conversion of Gummer & Ford's distinctive 1941 Moderne office building by Athfield Architects in 1999 has been controversial, with some of the more fundamentalist heritage lobby feeling that the glass and steel additions were out of keeping with the original building, whereas others in the architectural community have praised the bold extension as an intriguing variation on the original theme.

Water and Fire are Tamed for Man's AdvancementHowever, the interior retains some of the original features, including these strange and wonderful Art Deco designs on the pink marble walls of the lobby. Featuring hilariously triumphalist captions ("Electric Power Man's New Servant", "Water and Fire are Tamed for Man's Advancement") that are a relic of an age before environmental sensitivity, they are magnificent period pieces full of futurist dynamism, celebrating a bright and streamlined technological future.

So, if you're wandering around on the Parliament and Thorndon heritage walk, feel free to peek into the lobby to have a look. Just say Kia ora to Hika on the desk: I'm sure he'll be happy to let you have a look.


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