Art Deco Napier
Napier's Art Deco town centre is unique. Rivalled only by Miami beachfront's Streamline
Moderne, it is the most comprehensive Art Deco styled town in the world. In 1931 a
7.8 on the Richter scale earthquake hit just 15km north of Napier. Lasting two and a half
minutes, it destroyed much of the town, and the ensuing fires levelled the rest of the town
centre. Development anywhere in the world at this time was rare due to the Great Depression,
however Napier was all but wiped of the map and had to be rebuilt from scratch. By the end
of the 1930s, Napier was the newest city on the planet.
Fascination with cinema, Hollywood and exotic imagery from Africa and South America mixed
with expressions of new and exciting transport engineering; railway, steamships, cars and
airplanes, is what gives Art Deco its distinct look. Other period styles such as Spanish
Mission and Stripped Classical were also tested and mixed in. Notable Architect J. A. Louis
Hay also experimented with the palette of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style.
Despite this altogether global influence, the town retains its kiwi nature in building and
street scale, bright colour, and New Zealand's typically quirky and innovative appropriation
of international trends. An architecture that embodies an era's optimism in the face of such
a tragedy; enjoy this town's many architectural treasures with a variety of walks and guided
tours, or take it in at your own pace as you stroll down the palm-lined Marine Parade.