Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Art Deco City

In 1931, a huge earthquake hit the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand, killing hundreds of people, and destroying every building in sight. The town of Napier, and its sister city Hastings, sat directly in the crosshairs of the disaster. Both towns were, quite literally, flattened.

Napier found itself 40 sq kilometers larger after the quake, as a result of the immense upheaval of the sea floor above sea level. A deadly series of fires ripped through the town, and there was nothing that could stop the flames. When everything was over, there was nothing left.

This was during the Great Depression. Although that sounds like adding insult to injury, it was actually a boon for Napier. The high unemployment meant there were plenty of folks interested in working on the rebuilding effort. As a result, the city was completely rebuilt from scratch within two years. This rebuilding took place during the height of Art Deco style. Everything was pointed towards the future. Automation, speed, and modernity were in. Victorian sensibility was out. Because of this unique construction boon, Napier became one of the Art Deco capitals of the world.

Thanks to a dedicated sense of preservation, Napier retains its Art Deco charm today. People stroll down streets that look right out of the 1930s. The beautiful black sand beach is fronted with a wonderful public garden, and an art deco clamshell amphitheater. The historic buildings look like new, and Napier has become famous for its unique sense of style.

Enjoy the Napier Photo Gallery.

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