The Coronation Buildings designed by Timaru architect James Turnbull in 1902 provide a firm mass to the heart of Stafford Street north, with a highly decorated touch. This building is the most extravagant example of Victoriana within the CBD. The present ice cream colours enhance the playful façade.
In the late 19th century the ornate Victorian style permeated all of the arts not to mention everyday household goods. New manufacturing processes from the Industrial Revolution ensured that all manner of furniture and bric-a-brac could be smothered with tedious embellishments.
Not long after Queen Victoria's death in 1901, this decorative age came to a rapid end. Perhaps the populace became weary of the pointless decoration? That is one possible explanation. But what is on record is the fact that Germany was flexing its political and military muscles, and its design schools were also becoming restless. A sense of restraint, prevailed. The carnival was over.
With unstoppable artistic and political drive the Modern movement of architecture and design emerged quickly in Northern Europe and a brave new era was born. All decoration was rejected. Indeed some art philosophers linked decoration with the criminal mind.
Despite the post Modern movement in architecture (ie. "anything goes") that gained traction worldwide from the 1970's the underlying ethic of the Modern movement has not ever died.
In Timaru the Coronation Buildings stand as a lasting example of a period when Britain was riding high on the world stage, lending its dominant Victorian architectural style to all parts of the Empire. A future column might discuss this building in more detail.
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