The classical architecture of ancient Greece set high standards in formal composition, using simple elements to express power, elegance and confidence.
The Romans added the arch to their vocabulary – and curves in general - to further enrich classical forms, creating an architectural pattern book to last for centuries.
Following the middle ages where the Gothic movement held sway, the Renaissance period saw architects in northern Europe returning to the classical models of Greece and Italy. Civic buildings of any significance relied upon these sources of inspiration right through to the early 2oth century.
The civic buildings of the Timaru Borough Council began with the Public Library on the corner of King George Place and Latter St (1908), and progressed eastwards shortly after. The former library and the main body of the Council building have matching façades – clearly harking from Italy with variations common in public buildings in the UK.
The materials chosen are weighty Timaru bluestone for the foundation plinth with lighter, softer limestone above. One sees the same layers of contrasting stonework in the Auckland Town Hall.
The original sections of the Council building were designed by Timaru architect Walter Panton, crowned by the art deco inspired clock tower designed by his son Victor in 1934.
Travel South down the motorway for 15 minutes from Timaru and you’ll come to St Andrews. This township began its existence in 1871, and grew after the subdivision of the Pareora Run into a thriving rural service town which was linked to Timaru by rail in 1876.
Those driving through St Andrews may notice the wonderful deco building that is The Masonic Hotel. There has been a hotel on this site for over 135 years, the original version was established in 1876 but burnt down in a suspicious fire that occurred the night that ownership was signed over on August 19, 1936 to one Peter Daleissi and in 1937, the new owner rebuilt the hotel into the popular Art Deco style as seen today.
In 1937 Art Deco was at its height of popularity in NZ and the hotel would have been seen as a thoroughly modern addition to the township. The style heralded a complete change from the ornate Victorian/Edwardian villas of the beginning of the 20th century. It features the classic Art Deco monolithic appearance with applied decorative motifs, curvilinear forms, sharply defined outlines, rectangular blocky forms arranged in geometric fashion broken up by the curved ornamental details. All these features add to its appearance of solidity in the middle of town, the owners responsible for the renovation work completed have done an amazing job with this old gem.
To me the other feature that really stands out are the fantastic leadlight windows on this building, they show up most notably by night when the lights are on inside. If you are not stopping for a meal then it’s well worth cruising past at a lower speed than the recommended 70 kms to admire them.
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