"... ponderously pedantic pediments prevail ... good, clean fun in a bad, dirty world": New Zealand Architecture in the 1980s


  • Christine McCarthy




New Zealand Architecture, 1980s


The 1980s in New Zealand started with Robert Muldoon as Prime Minister: "Think Big," the Springbok Tour, the price freeze, and the establishment of Kōhanga Reo. These conflicting messages of expansion, contraction, and of race and politics were contextualised by high inflation (15.7% in 1981, 17.6% in 1982) and increasing unemployment (over 70,000 in 1981; c130,000 in 1983). In 1983 the CER (Closer Economic Relations) agreement with Australia was signed. In 1986 a GST (Goods and Services Tax) was first introduced. In October 1987, the sharemarket crash devastated many and reduced the number of cranes dominating the skylines of New Zealand's major cities. Building sites became car parks, and a new era of economic rationalisation would occur. In 1988 Broadcasting was de-regulated, NZPost (now an SOE) closed 432 post offices, and the selling of state assets to private interests was put in train. In 1989 GST increased to 12.5% and the Serious Fraud Office was established.It was also a decade of drama in New Zealand architecture. Significant controversies arose over buildings being built or being demolished, the economies of land value and building worth were in constant comparision. Of note were the discussions around the unrealised National Art Gallery, Roger Walker's now demolished Wellington Club the Aotea Centre in Auckland,the destruction of William Pitt's His Majesty's Theatre, and finally the National Museum of New Zealand, known these days as Te Papa. Controversies included protests against the recurring lack of open competitions for major public buildings, as well as the dominant disregard for architectural heritage.


Download data is not yet available.



2009-10-30 — Updated on 2009-03-16


How to Cite

McCarthy, C. (2009). ". ponderously pedantic pediments prevail . good, clean fun in a bad, dirty world": New Zealand Architecture in the 1980s. Architectural History Aotearoa, 6, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.26686/aha.v6i.6750 (Original work published October 30, 2009)

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 4 > >>