San Francisco has its famous Painted Ladies and Christchurch has New Regent Street but for Timaruvians this collection of decorated buildings is much closer to home – right in the centre of the CBD in fact.
While the original New Regent Street was conceived as an attraction in a single swoop, the buildings pictured here have happily formed a friendship over a period of time. In addition to the bright colours on display, there are many decorative touches that come from the architect's kit rather than the paint shop.
The building on the left has a prominent cartouche - a framed panel located top centre that can be found on several Timaru buildings from late Victorian times. This one includes swags - decorative work in plaster giving the appearance of draped fabric.
A cartouche is frequently used to decorate the parapet of a commercial building – the top section of a wall that continues upwards past the roofline. Parapets have always been regarded as earthquake prone, and this was confirmed in the severe Christchurch shaking.
The buildings are intensively decorated. All openings are crowned by distinctive keystones, and highly worked brackets and corbels pop out everywhere. These are masonry projections which normally might support a structural item such as a roof beam or a truss. Here their function is to simply promote even more decoration above.
The third building along has a low parapet, exposing the mansard roof behind – a roof shape that has a very steep pitch at the sides, almost as steep as the wall below. This style is named after 17th century French architect Francois Mansart. Many buildings in Paris are built to this profile, in effect creating another storey within the roof space.
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