The Port City of Napier NZ is the Art Deco Capital of the World

Levelled by an earthquake in 1931 Napier was rebuilt in the architectural style of the time. Napier’s blend of Art Deco and coastal chic lends the city a unique charm.

Almost 260 people lost their lives in the 1931 Napier earthquake. Devastating fires ravaged the city and surrounds and many major buildings and landmarks were destroyed. The disaster precipitated the rebuilding of Napier in a bold new style that left Victoriana behind.

Rebuilding of Napier City in the Art Deco Style

Rebuilding of Napier city began almost immediately after the earthquake with many inner city buildings being simultaneously designed and constructed in the Spanish Mission and Art Deco style of the1920s and 30s. Much of the building work was completed within two years, giving a pleasing uniformity of design, particularly to inner city streets.

Uniquely New Zealand elements were incorporated into the avant-garde style, with Maori motifs such as the koru (fern frond) and geometric weaving patterns employed to embellish the new structures. To complement Napier’s new architectural style, palm trees and Norfolk pines were planted in the city and along the seafront promenade, lending their own distinctive elegance to this compact port city.

With its clean, simple lines Art Deco architecture suited both the elegant style of the 1930s and the economical constraints of the Depression years. According to the Art Deco Trust stucco buildings were cheaper to construct and safer than the heavily ornamented Victorian structures that had featured previously.

Napier Art Deco Trust Preserves the Art Deco Heritage

There is something jazzy and uplifting about strolling in Napier’s inner city. The numerous examples of Art Deco architecture, signage, and boutiques selling Art Deco-inspired jewellery, furniture, fashion, and arts and crafts lend an other-world ambience of sophistication and glamour.

The Napier Art Deco Trust hosts two Art Deco weekends each year featuring jazz shows, movies, costume parades and parties, food and wine events and a vintage car parade.

The Art Deco Trust also offers guided tours of the Art Deco quarter. Daytime tours are held twice daily (except for Christmas Day). Walkers receive an Art Deco booklet, refreshments and the opportunity to watch a video screening. Evening walks are available daily from 1st December to 31st March.

Napier Earthquake at the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery

Visitors can learn more about the Napier earthquake through permanent and ongoing displays at the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery. Incoming seismic data can be viewed through interactive touch-screen displays. Photographs and newspaper clippings from the time are exhibited. Perhaps the most moving display is the continuous documentary ‘Survivors Stories’, shown in a simple canvas enclosure, as would have housed those made homeless following the massive earthquake. Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery: 9 Herschell St, Napier; ph: 64 6 835 7781.

Travel to Napier via the Thermal Explorer Highway

There are direct flights to Napier from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Napier is a five-six hour drive from Auckland, four hours from Wellington and three from Rotorua via the Napier-Taupo Thermal Explorer highway. The Thermal Explorer Highway bisects miles of barren scrubland, cuts through rugged mountain ranges and traverses swift-flowing rivers.

Napier Fact Bites

Average temperature: 19 degrees
Population: approx 56,000
High sunshine hours

Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Hawke’s Bay with its dramatic terrain, spectacular scenery and Mediterranean climate takes a large bite out of the East Coast of New Zealand. Hawke’s Bay is food and wine country with plenty of room left for arts, culture, sports, heritage, festivals, wilderness adventures and shopping expeditions. All activities and events can be accessed via Napier, the Art Deco capital of the world.


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