Beautifully preserved 1930s architecture is Napier’s special point of difference.
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A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. On the morning of February 3rd 1931 a massive earthquake – 7.9 on the Richter scale – rocked Hawke’s Bay for more than three minutes. Nearly 260 lives were lost and the vast majority of buildings in the commercial centre of Napier were destroyed, either by the quake itself or the fires that followed.
Rebuilding began almost immediately, and much of it was completed in two years. New buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times – Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco. Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright, had his chance to shine. Maori motifs were employed to give the city a unique New Zealand character – for example, the ASB bank on the corner of Hastings and Emerson Streets features Maori koru and zigzags.
Napier’s city centre has the feeling of a time capsule – the seamless line of 1930s architecture is quite extraordinary. One of the ways to enjoy the streetscape is on a self-guided walk – ask for a map at the information centre or at the Art Deco Trust. Guided walks around the city are also available every day rain or shine (except Christmas Day!). Every February, Napier celebrates it’s heritage with the Art Deco weekend – a stylish celebration of all things 1930’s, including vintage cars, fashion and music.
Napier’s other special attractions include the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and the many vineyards that make good use of the region’s alluvial soils. Pinot Gris and Syrah are the region’s signature drops. On Saturday mornings, the Napier farmers’ market is a chance to shop for artisan foods and fresh produce.