Remuera Public Library
431 Remuera Road And St Vincent Avenue, Remuera, Auckland
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
2nd April 1985
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes the land described as Pt Lots 1-2 DP 17675 (CT NA409/162), North Auckland Land District, and the building and structures known as Remuera Public Library thereon.
Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)
Pt Lots 1-2 DP 17675 (CT NA409/162), North Auckland Land District
The Remuera Public Library is nationally significant as one of the first buildings in the country to have been awarded a gold medal by the New Zealand Institute of Architects. A notable landmark on a prominent corner in the centre of Remuera, it is also considered to be one of Auckland’s most distinguished suburban structures. Built in 1926, the library is an impressive example of Neo-Georgian architecture designed by W.H. Gummer and Reginald Ford, one of New Zealand’s leading architectural practices of the period. Reflecting the importance of libraries as places of self-improvement in the early twentieth century and particularly the expansion of Auckland’s library system, it has close links with other individuals of national and regional importance including the notable feminist Ellen Melville. It has also served as an important gathering place for the local community since it was constructed.
During the pre- and early colonial periods, the name Remuera (Remuwera) was associated with a pā on Mt Hobson and surrounding lands. By the early twentieth century, Remuera had become one of Auckland’s most exclusive suburbs. In 1915, Auckland City Council opened a public library in the area, reflecting the Council’s cultural leadership during its expansion of the Auckland Public Library service following the amalgamation of a number of local boards with the Council. In 1925, Sir James Gunson, the Mayor of Auckland, recommended that a new purpose-built library be erected in Remuera as part of a scheme to provide all suburban centres in Auckland with libraries containing lending, reference and lecture facilities. The Council approved borrowing £12,000 for the project, and engaged Gummer and Ford, the architectural firm that had recently designed the Grey Lynn library, to design the new structure. Gummer and Ford (established in 1923) was New Zealand’s most prominent architectural practice in the 1920s, designing some of the most significant commercial and public buildings in Auckland and other centres. In September 1925, the Council accepted the tender of Philcox and Son for construction.
The Remuera Library was opened by city councillor, Ellen Melville in 1926. A key figure in the revival of the New Zealand feminist movement in the twentieth century, Melville had been the first woman in the country to be elected to a city council. As Head of the Council’s Library Committee, she is credited with invigorating Auckland’s library system. At the well-attended opening ceremony, Melville mentioned the role of suburban libraries in providing a ‘great educational force in the life of the community’.
The Remuera Library is a single-storey, red-brick building designed in the classical tradition, with a Neo-Georgian character displaying American colonial influences. The rectangular plan had a strong axial arrangement, with the library occupying the north-south axis and the lecture hall occupying the east-west alignment. The building incorporates strong eaves lines, finely divided arched and square headed windows, a projecting columned portico at the library entrance and a pergola at the hall entrance. The open-plan layout of the library followed a standard plan stipulated by the Council, and was considered innovative at the time. Gummer and Ford were awarded a New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) Gold Medal for the design.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Remuera Library and its hall served as a hub for community events. Internal changes were made in 1958, and in 1961 the wall between the hall and library was removed, new windows were installed and the balcony was enclosed. In 2002, the earlier modifications were removed, a mezzanine was installed in the stage area of the hall and the east balcony re-clad. This work, undertaken by City Design, won an NZIA Resene Local Award for Architecture in the Heritage and Conservation Division in 2004. Landscape improvements were carried out between 2003 and 2005. Today, the library remains an important example of Neo-Georgian architecture and a focal point for the Remuera community.
Gummer & Ford
The architectural partnership of Gummer and Ford was established in 1923, and became one of national importance.
William Henry Gummer (1884-1966) was articled to W.A. Holman, an Auckland architect, and was elected as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1910. In the period 1908-1913 he travelled in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. During this time he worked for Sir Edwin Lutyens, leading English architect of the time, and for Daniel Burnham in Chicago. Burnham was a major American architect and one of the founders of the influential Chicago School of Architecture. Gummer joined the firm of Hoggard and Prouse of Auckland and Wellington in 1913. In 1914 he was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, was president of the Institute from 1933-34 and was later elected a life member.
Charles Reginald Ford (1880- 1972) was born in England and served in the Royal Navy. He was later with Captain Scott's 1901-1904 expedition to Antarctica. He trained as an architect working in Wanganui as an engineer. In 1926 he wrote the first treatise on earthquake and
building construction in the English language. Ford was president of the New Zealand Institute of Architects from 1921-22.
Buildings designed by the partnership include the State Insurance Building Wellington, (1940) the Dilworth Building (1926), the Guardian Trust Building and the Domain Wintergardens (1921 and 1928), all in Auckland, and the Dominion Museum (1936) in Wellington. Gummer and Ford were awarded Gold Medals from the New Zealand Institute of Architects for the designs of Auckland Railway Station and Remuera Library.
Gummer was one of the most outstanding architects working in New Zealand in the first half of this century and was responsible for the stylistically and structurally advanced Tauroa (1916), Craggy Range (1919), Arden (1926), and Te Mata (1935) homesteads at Havelock North.
Philcox & Sons
No biography is currently available for this construction professional
counter and vestibule remodelled
internal renovations, new steel windows on east wall, balcony enclosed
strengthening works carried out to structure of building
5th June 2015
Report Written By
Auckland Star, 31 July 1926, p.13.
Journal of the New Zealand Institute of Architects
The Journal of The New Zealand Institute of Architects
The Journal of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, Vol. IX, No. 2, June 1930.
Charles Walker (ed), Exquisite Apart: 100 years of New Zealand Architecture, Auckland, 2005.
Barr, John, Three Score Years & 10, Auckland Public Libraries 1880-1950, Auckland, 1950.
Carlyon and Morrow, 2011
Carlyon, Jenny, and Diana Morrow, A Fine Prospect: A History of Remuera, Meadowbank and St Johns, Auckland, 2011.
Coney, Sandra, 'Melville, Eliza Ellen', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 19-Nov-2013
Matthews & Matthews Architects Ltd
Matthews & Matthews Architects Ltd, ‘The Remuera Public Library Heritage Assessment, Report for Auckland City Council’, 2001 [Auckland].
NZIA Gold Award Winners 1928 and National Award Winners 2004. Category: Heritage/Conservation
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.
A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Northern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand