In his heyday as editor of Metro magazine, Warwick Roger delighted in using the phrase “small but perfectly formed”. This was often delivered with a touch of irony – with reference to his choice of vehicle for example.
Putting irony aside, this same expression could be fairly applied to the building established for the Gladstone Board of Works, a forerunner to the Timaru Borough Council. This building represents the establishment of an initial local authority for the Timaru district. For that reason together with the skilful design, Category 1 protection has been imposed by Heritage New Zealand, citing the building as “probably the most historically significant structure in the city”. From the research material available, the identity of the architect is ambiguous.
Constructed in 1874 the building is neo-Georgian in style, seeking perfection in its classical, ordered use of symmetry and balance.
In general the walls contain quite rough bluestone blocks laid in an ashlar pattern but the openings to the street façade have received exceptional treatment. They have very deep reveals in stone, all hand worked with a scutching chisel, while various stone facings have framed panels of heavy texture again achieved with hand tools. This surface treatment is a variation on traditional “vermiculated work” – after the Latin vermiculus meaning worm, with the stone appearing to have been infested by such creatures. A small oculus motif, being a perfect concave hemisphere cut in to the stone, forms a line of three along each window head - another example of the stonemasons’ showmanship on display.
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