When James McKeown travelled to Timaru in recent times, he had a particular purpose in mind. James was tracking the life story of the talented architect Thomas Mullions.
Our guest wondered whether there were any significant buildings by Mullions still standing in the town centre. He was soon impressed. Standing on the Old Bank corner, to the right is that majestic ship sailing above the 2 Stags café, while straight ahead is the beautiful curved building that forms the heart of the CBD.
James McKeown was living in the Shortland St flats, an apartment building in upper Shortland Street off Queen St in downtown Auckland. That building is one of Mullions' later works and is now well protected by heritage legislation.
Mullions worked in various towns before settling in Timaru, where his career blossomed. He later moved to the North Island - finally to Auckland where his legacy is found principally in well tailored houses in the eastern suburbs. These are much admired and several in fact, protected.
A previous column mentioned Mullions' skill in tailoring corner buildings in Timaru. The exaggerated bulk of the building illustrated imposes itself on the corner, and the details are designed to stand close scrutiny. Every architectural element has received exaggerated treatment. The pediments (the triangles at the top) are quite heavily worked with pronounced dentils (the small blocks around the edges) and a central bucranium (a stylised ox head motif).
The façade is taken away from the flat and boring by picturesque features including projecting oriel windows (bay windows that don't occur on the lower floor). Altogether a striking composition.
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