Monday, 15 August 2011

Last few days in New Zealand

Well after the Napier wine tour I did the Art Deco walking tour. Napier was destroyed in and an earthquake of 7.8 and subsequent fire in February 1931 and rebuilt in the Art Deco, but also the Spanish missionary and strip classical designs which were fashionable for the day. These were also a lot safer than traditional Victorian brick with elaborate pediments on top of the buildings (which killed a few people), and made of wood and concrete, more earthquake proof materials. The tour started at the Art Deco shop where we saw a slide show of Napier before and after the earthquake. Before the earthquake Napier as a large island right next to the Hawke's Bay coast with two long spits of land connecting it and there was a lot of water just to the north. After the earthquake the land raised up about 7 ft leaving Napier fully connected to the mainland and giving the region about 40km2 of new land, on which the airport is built and the grapes are grown for Mission Vineyard wines.

We were taken on a walk by these two older women, both complete Art Deco nuts who kept pointing out 'the sophistication of the joinery' and 'look at that wonderful carpet' (this was in the theatre and the carpet was hideous). In the late 19th century there was the arts and crafts movement which evolved into the Art Neuveau style, based on nature and flowers and curves and organic shapes. Art Deco was very reactionary to that reflecting simple geometric designs. It was done on the drawing board, not a field of flower, and reflected the mechanics and mechinery, the industrialism of the 1920's. (this is what our guide says, you'll have to ask my mum though, she's the one with the degree in all of this stuff). Anyway these two old ladies were a little boring and were enthusiastic to the point of being a bit crazy. Also this sort of thing doesn't really interest me and I was trying to find the joinery of the door frames and the hanging lamps interesting but I really couldn't. What was more interesting were the other people on the trip going 'thats fascinating' and 'its so good that they've restored it to how it originally was.' As and archaeologist I am morally opposed to restoring things exactly as they were, you destroy the history of a building, part of what it was used for. Like after the Greek revolution all traces of the Christian Church, and then the Muslim Mosque were removed, all you get is one snapshot in time and see that this building was important to one group of people, not to all the people in over 3,000 years of history who used it, none of that was preserved. Anyway thats a totally different topic. There were a few famous architects who had input but the only name I remember is that someone was inspired by Charles Renee Macintosh, and I only remember that name because my mum has some mugs with his work on them. They are geometric flowers, sort of the opposite to an Art Neuveau flower.

In Napier every year they have a big Art Deco festival, with old cars and everyone dresses up. Our tour guide said she had 6 1930's outfits to wear, but that she needed a new one for winter. It does make for a really interesting looking city, I will give it that.

On Saturday I got the bus to Auckland. For some reason it felt like I was leaving New Zealand. I think its because Auckland doesn't feel like New Zealand and that Jaffas (Aucklanders) are different from other people. I know they say the same about London but it really is true in New Zealand. New Zealanders are friendly, a little crazy, and just a bit backward (I think its from the isolation). Aucklanders are just like any other people in the world, and Auckland is just another city. They best thing about it is that its about an hour from anywhere good. Anyway I met up with one of the guys from the Hong Kong group flight that I did ages ago and his friends. Then Sunday did a few last minute things and set my alarm to get up at 3:30 the next morning!

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