Long Live The Modern in Lower Hutt

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Long Live The Modern in Lower Hutt! Exhibition of modern architecture opens at TheNewDowse

When Long Live The Modern opens at TheNewDowse on January 30th, visitors will notice a local flavour to the exhibition’s celebration of New Zealand's modern architecture. TheNewDowse season of this acclaimed touring exhibition features profiles of the Lower Hutt Civic Buildings, designed in the 1950s by Ron Muston and Keith Cook and increasingly valued as examples of innovative modernist architecture. Other Wellington projects include Massey House by Ernst Plishke and Cedric Firth, The Hannah Playhouse/Downstage Theatre by James Beard and The Futuna Chapel in Karori by John Scott.

Long Live the Modern is curated by Julia Gatley and Bill McKay whose book of the same name was published by Auckland University Press last year. Both the book and the exhibition demonstrate how international ideas were both pursued and adapted to New Zealand concerns, climates and conditions.

The exhibition brings together original drawings and period books, journals and photographs, as well as new architectural models and recent photographs of significant modern buildings from around New Zealand. It concentrates on the post-World War II period, which saw enormous government expenditure on housing, public buildings and infrastructure projects, and a concurrent wave of private and commercial developments.

“Now the magic wand has been waved. With the recent opening of the magnificent War Memorial Library and Cultural Centre Lower Hutt shows signs of becoming the belle of New Zealand cities.”

Celia and Cecil Manson, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, April 5, 1956

While New Zealanders voted in a National Government in 1950, Lower Hutt constituents chose a labour council led by Mayor Percy Dowse. One of Dowse’s priorities was to improve the city’s civic facilities in line with the growing population’s desire not to have to travel to Wellington for social and cultural offerings. In 1954, the first new project was completed, the radical rebuilding of Saint James Church. Designed by Lower Hutt architect Ron Muston of the Structon Group Architects, the starkly modernist building presented parishioners with a light filled house of worship and was even visited by Queen Elizabeth II during the 1954 Royal Tour. Muston went on to design the Lower Hutt War Memorial Library and Little Theatre in Riddiford Park, which was opened by the Governor General Sir Willoghby Norrie in 1956. Meanwhile Keith Cook of King, Cook & Dawson had been engaged to design a new Administration Building, Town Hall (completed in 1957) and Horticultural Hall (1959). The Civic Buildings were described by Building Progress magazine as Lower Hutt’s “noble centrepiece” and the City of Lower Hutt proudly promoted them as “a reflection of the city’s progress and progressive attitude.”

In 1971 the Dowse Art Gallery opened, named in memory of Mary Dowse, the wife of Mayor Percy Dowse, and designed by Ron Muston. Muston became a patron of the Friends of the Dowse and was a member of the first Management Board of the Dowse and collections committee.

Curators Julia Gatley and Bill McKay are lecturers at the University of Auckland. In May this year they were awarded the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) President’s Award in recognition of services to architecture. Gatley and McKay’s book on the Group Architects is due out next year.

Long Live The Modern

30 January – 4 April 2010

TheNewDowse | FREE ENTRY

45 Laings Road Lower Hutt | ph 04 570 6500

Media enquiries and images:

Rachel Healy

Communications Advisor

T 04 560 1477, 027 687 4226

E rachel.healy@huttcity.govt.nz

W www.newdowse.org.nz

Long Live the Modern is toured by the Gus Fisher Gallery and the University of Auckland.

Written by

The Dowse Art Museum

9 Nov 2009

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