New Zealand's largest urban area with a population of just over 1.2 million people. It is not, however, the capital, although it was at one time, until the capital moved to Wellington.
Zealand city with a seaport, located in Hawke's Bay. The population of Napier is nearly 60,000. Napier is a popular tourist city, with a unique concentration of 1930s Art Deco architecture.
On February 3, 1931, most of Napier was levelled by an earthquake. The collapse of buildings and the ensuing fires killed 258 people. The Hawke's Bay earthquake not only destroyed the centre of Napier, but caused radical changes to the surrounding landscape. Some 4000 hectares of today's Napier were undersea before the earthquake raised it up above sea level. It was a natural disaster of major proportions. This destruction resulted in a massive reconstruction of the town centre. Napier became New Zealand's (and indeed the world's) newest city with its own Southern Hemisphere version of Art Deco style. Due to the economic climate and the number of casualties caused by falling masonry and decorative features during the earthquake, the scale of the town centre was limited to one or two storeys and the buildings were decorated with low relief ornamentation. Reinforced concrete was used in construction and the use of older materials such as bricks was shunned.
As a result Napier's architecture is strikingly different from any other city; the other notable Art Deco city, Miami Beach, has Streamline Moderne Art Deco. The whole centre of Napier was rebuilt simultaneously. Because the creation of a completely new city centre halts the normal cycle of demolition and renewal, no changes occurred at all in central Napier until the 1960s. Some buildings have been lost since then but now the remaining ones are protected and Art Deco precinct still possesses authenticity in design.
Art Deco Festival is a must for all the visitors who plan to visit central North Island in February. The festival offers a step back in time to art deco era. While you are in the area you can also visit local wineries, notably Church Road winery and its wine museum. For overseas travelers perhaps a visit to the Possum World shop at Marine Parade (if you aren’t from Australia!). There is also theNational Aquarium of New Zealand. And if you like ice cream don’t forget to try local Rush Munro’s (made in nearby Hastings).