Art Deco Napier celebrates in style
21 Jan 2011
Geon Art Deco Weekend - Napier
18 - 20 February, 2011
New Zealand’s Art Deco capital of Napier, in Hawke’s Bay, celebrates its annual festival of origin in style in February with an event calendar that features boas and balls, picnics and parades.
What began as a two-day festival in 1989 has grown to a week-long extravaganza of elegance celebrating an era of sophistication and an all- important time in Napier’s history.
The city was rebuilt from the ruins of a major earthquake in 1931 and has one of the most concentrated arrays of modern Art Deco, stripped classical and Spanish Mission style buildings of any city in the world.
2011 Art Deco festival
The 2011 festival incorporates over 150 events and will attract an expected 45,000 people, including national and international enthusiasts, many of whom make an annual pilgrimage to Napier for the Deco celebration.
They dress in period clothing, drive vintage cars, sip champagne, picnic in great Gatsby style, attend elegant soirees and wander the architecturally distinct streets that make Napier unique in the world.
As well as a vintage car parade, aerobatic flying displays, dinner dance and free outdoor jazz concerts, there will be a Starlight Supper at The Dome - which organisers say will be of special interest to those liking "a little champagne, glitz and glam".
East Coast vintage train
New features of the 2011 event include a vintage train trip to Gisborne about 200km further up the East Coast.
Passengers can enjoy the romantic transport of a bygone era with panoramic coastal views en route. They will travel through 20 different tunnels and over several viaducts including one of the largest in the world.
Other new events for 2011 include a banquet on the beach, ‘bubbly breakfasts’ and a special tribute to the armed forces personnel involved in the earthquake 80 years ago.
Unique Māori motifs
As well as being one of very few such concentrations of Art Deco buildings in the world, Napier city has extra significance as it was built in the depths of the Depression. The incorporation of Māori motifs and other design elements also make it unique to other collections.
Another bonus is the large number of buildings inspired by the great American architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan.
The nearby city of Hastings also has its own collection of buildings in Art Deco, Stripped Classical and Spanish Mission styles - one of the best examples is The Hawke’s Bay Opera House built in 1915 and refurbished in 2007.
While many tourists time their visit to Hawke’s Bay around the Art Deco Festival, tours of the city are available all year round.
Volunteer guides from the Art Deco Trust take walking tours around the city, or visitors can do their own exploring with a brochure from the local iSITE office.
A vintage car tour is another way to see the city, in style. Napier tour company Packard Promenades offers trips either in an immaculate Packard 6 or an MG, and highlights include visiting the National Tobacco Company Building, Deco houses and gardens in the suburb of Marewa and the grand Edwardian Hawke’s Bay Club.
Background: 1931 Napier earthquake
Napier’s Art Deco origins go back to a devastating 7.8 (Richter scale) earthquake on 3 February 1931 that caused geographic upheaval and widespread damage throughout the Hawke's Bay region.
Most of the buildings in the coastal city were flattened, either by the earthquake or the ensuing fires. The town’s water supply had been cut during the quake so there was nothing to fight the fires that ravaged the streets.
However, remarkable community spirit prevailed and the town was almost completely rebuilt in two years.
Art Deco style
The style that predominated was Art Deco. It was not only popular at the time but provided strong reinforced concrete with decoration that would not fall off and injure people as had happened with the Edwardian-style pre-earthquake buildings.
The Art Deco Trust was formed in 1985 to preserve and promote what is now recognised as a world-class collection of Art Deco architecture. The Art Deco Weekend is one way that the Trust brings the Art Deco era to life in a huge community celebration.
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