Forgotten Memorials

DSC01711I’m going to lead a ‘Secret art walk’ of Wellington for a group in a few weeks’ time. “Secret Art Walk” was the subject of a brochure issued in 2012 – an initiative of “the Property Council of New Zealand proudly sponsored by Beca”. It was updated a year or two later but is – I think – now considered ‘out of print’ or out of date as it isn’t available at the Wellington info centre. It is mainly about art works located in the foyers of commercial buildings – some in the brochure can no longer be seen, but I have found others too that aren’t in the brochure. Quite a number are labelled, but also quite a number aren’t. As I was doing research for this walk, I came across a website of Stephen Gibbs who did the walk in 2015 and blogged about it over a couple of months. You can download a copy of the original brochure here (PDF): Secret Art Walk Continue reading


The former Erskine College, Island Bay

Where I live in Island Bay, Wellington, I look across the valley to what used to be a Catholic girls’ secondary school known as Erskine College. After the school closed in 1985, the buildings had various uses including as an art school venue. I am not an ‘alumna’ or ‘old girl’ of the school, but I did visit it several times when the art school had exhibitions and I took part in one of their weekend courses once. But it has been listed as earthquake prone and is no longer usable. It has been empty for some years and, as such, the target of vandalism.

dsc05200 Continue reading

High-rise cities: enchanting cities?

The current online course I’m doing is called ‘Re-enchanting the city’ run by the University of New South Wales.  For a case-study it is using a development in Sydney called Central Park (not to be confused with New York’s more famous Central Park). Located next to the Central Rail Station, it is a development of apartments, offices, shops, food and drink outlets, and a park. It markets itself as Sydney’s new downtown. Early in week one we were introduced to the ideas of Associate Professor Vishaan Chakrabarti (Colombia University), who argues that ‘hyperdensity is good urban design’.[1] His definition is “density sufficient to support intensive public transportation systems – typically regarded as 30 dwelling units per acre or 75 units per hectare”, which “contributes to health, prosperity and sustainability of cities”. Continue reading

Fullers Vaudeville: ‘the night’s entertainment goes with a swing’

Recently I bought a few historic photographs of Wellington at an op shop (they were reproductions from the Turnbull Library collection). In one of them – looking east along Courtenay Place with the De Luxe Theatre (now the Embassy) in the centre – I noticed a large sign on a building for “Fullers Vaudeville”. I know the De Luxe opened in 1924 and was a little surprised that vaudeville was still popular at this date. I tend to associate it with the nineteenth century. Continue reading

Island Bay places

Yesterday I visited three buildings in Island Bay, Wellington with members of Historic Places Wellington (well, truth to tell, I organised the visits, in my ‘home suburb’). The first visit was to the Home of Compassion, which I have written about before on this website (see Some Wellington buildings). The Catholic order of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion (more commonly known as Sisters of Compassion) was founded by a remarkable French woman, Suzanne Aubert, in 1892 in Jerusalem on the Whanganui River (I have also written a post on that! See: Jerusalem).

Continue reading

World War Two refugee architects in Wellington

Massey House

One interesting talk I went to last weekend as part of the ‘Capital 150’ celebrations was on the topic of refugee architects who came to New Zealand from Europe just before World War Two. The talk was given by Linda Tyler from Auckland and was in conjunction with an exhibition at the Holocaust Centre in Wellington. These architects were key figures in the introduction of modernism into Wellington architecture at this period.

The best known of these architects was Ernst Plischke (he sometimes dropped the ‘c’ and became Plishke; 1903-1992). Although not Jewish himself, his wife was, and his association with the socialist wing of the Werkbund caused employment opportunities in Austria under Nazi occupation to dwindle. They emigrated to New Zealand arriving in May 1939, but were nevertheless regarded as enemy aliens during the war. Continue reading

Inside the Te Papa Storeroom

DSC06508 DSC06507

This weekend Wellington celebrated “Capital 150” – 150 years since Wellington became capital of New Zealand. Many buildings were open to display their ‘treasures’, including the national museum, commonly known as Te Papa. I volunteered at their off-site storeroom for a few hours and was stationed in the furniture storeroom, but before the public were let in I had a quick look at some of the other storage areas. This facility doesn’t house all of Te Papa’s collections – some items like art are stored at the museum on the waterfront. I’m not a scientist so my interest in cases like these is mainly aesthetic! Continue reading