Art Deco Napier

Napier is known as the Art Deco Capital of the world, and is famous for its jazz age architecture, Art Deco Weekend festival, and for the preservation of its heritage buildings.

Rising up through the ashes following a massive earthquake and subsequent fires which destroyed most of the inner city on the 3rd of February 1931, Napier with its past destroyed, looked ahead and chose a style associated with Manhattan, the movies and modernism. As the Art Deco style was at the height of its popularity for buildings in 1931, its clean simple lines and basic decoration suited the needs of the new city.

Nowhere else can you see such a concentration and variety of buildings in the styles of the 1930s - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission, and above all Art Deco, the style of the 20th century. Napier's Art Deco is unique, with Maori motifs and extraordinary buildings created by famous architects of the day.

The style we now call Art Deco originated in Europe in the early years of the 20th Century, with its heyday from 1920 to 1940. It became widely known following the great Exposition des Arts Modernes Decoratifs et Industriels, held in Paris in 1925 and from which its name was ultimately derived. By the late 1930s it was in its streamlined phase - Art Deco expressed all the vigour and optimism of the roaring twenties, and the idealism and escapism of the grim thirties.

Since Napier's Art Deco architecture was "discovered" in the early 1980's, the city has become world famous for its unique style. In Napier, you can enjoy the legacy of its brave rebuilding and savour the spirit of the optimistic Art Deco era. Articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers all over the world, and international tourists delight in Napier’s decorative and colourful buildings which speak of the confidence of the early 20th Century, and a small town that recreated itself during the Great Depression.

To celebrate its heritage, in Napier on the third weekend of February each year, local heritage organization the Art Deco Trust, stages its annual Art Deco Weekend Festival. The city gleams with vintage cars; vintage steam trains; deco dining; art deco shows; vintage aircrafts and aerial displays over the city while people dressed in Deco era style bring glamour and elegance to this unique festival which attracts people from many overseas countries.