In South Canterbury the name Cecil Wood is attached to the early designer and builder of the first motor vehicles in the district.
It so happens that the very same name belongs to one of New Zealand's leading architects. With a strong practice based in Christchurch, Cecil Wood designed commanding country houses in Canterbury as well as carefully composed commercial and institutional buildings. Two of his most lauded works would be the Hare Library at Christs College and the Roman Catholic Cathedral St Paul's in Wellington.
St Paul's is a building of much interest, being of a stern classical design showing how classical styling can be embraced by the robust simplicity of Modernism. The bones of the building were designed by Cecil Wood in 1938; there were three stages of building with the final stage in 1998 supervised by Sir Miles Warren who began his career as a 16 year old novice in Cecil Wood's office many years earlier. Indeed many architects received similar training in Wood's practice.
Timaru is fortunate to have one of Wood's typical trim commercial buildings, built for the State Insurance company in 1928. The building pairs up nicely with the former Public Trust building on the opposite side of Church Street.
The building is constructed almost entirely of reinforced concrete – walls, floors and roof. This allows quite open floor plans with little internal structure. The 1920's saw the emergence of glass as a significant wall element. Cecil Wood was not the first architect to realise that if one took a fluted Doric column and pressed it flat, so to speak, a vertical pilaster could have some classical character and be more than just the infill between the windows.
View by date