Art Deco and the Napier Earthquake

When you mention Art Deco in New Zealand most people immediately think of Napier, which is undeniably perhaps the ‘Art Deco Capital’ of New Zealand.

But the Napier Earthquake did not only affect Napier. Most places in Hawkes Bay were terribly shaken and damage was fairly widespread.

Even in Waipawa it changed the view of our town.

Before we had all old Victorian/Edwardian style shop frontages…

But when the Earthquake struck….

Caption: Some of the damage done by the Napier Earthquake in Waipawa.

Soon after the earthquake repairs and rebuilding began in earnest. And at the time of course the squarer ‘Art Deco’ look was in… And so eventuated – ‘The Waipawa Art Deco Experience!’

Caption: Notice the change in the ‘King’s Drapery’ frontage in the before and after photos.

OK. Our Art Deco may not be as dramatic as Napier’s Art Deco, but you have to remember we are just a small town… so things are on a slightly smaller scale.

I think its nice having some of these buildings in our town – it adds to the diversity of colour and shape.

A few years ago (1998) I was part of a group that painted all the shop frontages in the main street. We were given cream coloured paint by a generous paint company and had to buy the red and green accent colours ourselves.

Caption: Yes. That is me in that rather floppy sunhat. Don’t blame me because the photos blurry. That’s how it was in the Herald Tribune.

Over twenty three weekends a small group of us voluntarily gave up our time and painted the ‘tops of the shops’, and then later ‘the bottoms up’.

Most of our cheerful crew (which dwindled severely as the weeks went on) chose to paint big areas of colours – and I got to paint nearly all the twiddly bits. So I particularly enjoyed painting these Art Deco buildings as they had ornate little tassels, zigzags and suns (which I splashed out and painted not red nor green, but yellow!) and so they appealed more to the artistic side of me.