Monday, January 14, 2013

Napier 1/11/2012

It is often said that a person’s life can change in a matter of moments. This was certainly the case for the residents of Napier, New Zealand, a seaport town located on Hawke’s Bay. On February 3, 1931 a massive Richter 7.8 earthquake ravaged the region. Fires subsequently engulfed the area and the city as a functioning town ceased to exist. An ambitious rebuilding of the city, in the style of Art Deco made this one of New Zealand destination, known not for its natural beauty but instead it’s architecture. Careful preservation makes Napier one of the art deco capitals of the world and a location where most of its distinctive buildings still stand today.

In Napier I took an Art Deco walking tour. At the Art Deco Preservation Center we first viewed a film about the earthquake and had an explanation of what we were about to see.

The style we call Art Deco originated in Europe in the early 20th Century, and its heyday was from 1920 to 1940. It became widely known following the great Exposition des Arts Modernes Decoratifs et Industriels, held in Paris in 1925, from which its name was ultimately derived. By the late 1930s it was in its streamlined phase and after World War II, the International Style, devoid of all decoration, held sway. Not until the late 1960s did people begin to rediscover it and take it seriously. Art Deco expressed all the vigor and optimism of the roaring twenties, and the idealism and escapism of the grim thirties.

Its decorative themes are:
•     Sunbursts and fountains - representing the dawn of a new modern age.
•     The Skyscraper shape - symbolic of the 20th century.
•     Symbols of speed, power and flight - the exciting new developments in transport and communications.
•     Geometric shapes – representing machines and technology, assumed to solve all current problems.
•     The new woman - revelling in her recently won social freedoms.
•     Breaking the rules - cacophonous jazz, short skirts and hair, shocking dances.
•     Ancient cultures – for the fascination with the civilizations of Egypt and Central America. 

We then set out, on a hot and sunny day,  to see representations of these themes in the City Centre Historic Area.


Each February Napier hosts the the Art Deco Festival.
Featured over the weekend are hundreds of 1920s and '30s cars, aerobatic flying displays, steam train rides, a great Gatsby picnic, dinner dance extravaganzas and free outdoor concerts to name a few. 

Many thousands of guests and locals alike dress in 
Deco style bringing glamour to the city streets. 

Feel the atmosphere, live the era of mystique, if only for 
a few days. The celebrations are a major attraction and a must to see and do when visiting this lovely city and region.

Hawke’s Bay is also known for for having the world's largest and most accessible mainland Gannet Colony. While I stayed in the city, Jon headed out on the tour to Cape Kidnapper’s to see the gathering place of approximately twenty five thousand gannets. These birds with distinctive black eye marking and a pale gold crown, have a six-foot wingspan, are exceptional flyers and conduct spectacular high dives into the sea to catch fish.

Hawke's Bay is also known for it's wine region that we unfortunately unable to visit. Maybe another time we can come for the Art Deco Festival stopping at many of the area's vineyards to pick up libations for the festivities. 

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