A recent column looked at the contribution of Timaru architects Turnbull & Rule - in particular their legacy of picturesque houses throughout the district. But the firm also designed many commercial buildings in Timaru including the Oxford Building from 1928 located on a prominent corner. The building is carefully tailored to its site and has some novel touches including the union jack motifs repeated in various ways and the curious sunrise reliefs to the parapets. Patterns, proportions and the finishing of the edges all work to create a definite composition.
The office building alongside was designed by the Christchurch firm of Collins Hunt & Loveridge in the 1970's. The north elevation here is merely an assembly of window units, with little attention given to the overall composition. It represents the dilemma for commercial architects in practice at that time. The dogma of modernism – the "less is more" ethic and the absence of decoration – was losing its grip, but had not yet been replaced by the freedom of post-modernism. This was a freedom to not just raid any previous architectural styles at will, but also to leap forward in to a fresh, innovative, and optimistic approach. Soon leading architects such as Aldo Rossi in Italy and Michael Graves in the USA found some cute building blocks in the toy box leading to an inspired, light-hearted touch to commercial and institutional buildings. A little bit like the Oxford, one might say.
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