Domain Wintergardens

Wintergarden Road, Auckland Domain, Auckland

  • Domain Wintergardens.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 29/10/2001.
  • Domain Wintergardens. Interior of Wintergardens.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 29/10/2001.
  • Domain Wintergardens. Interior of Wintergardens. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Antilived- Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Antilived- Wikimedia Commons. Date: 13/01/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 124 Date Entered 21st September 1989


City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Auckland Domain (CT NA75C/138), North Auckland Land District


The Domain Wintergardens combine New Zealand's natural and cultural heritage, consisting of structures displaying a variety of native and exotic flora in the Auckland Domain. They were originally started during the First World War to commemorate the success of the Industrial, Agricultural and Mining Exhibition of 1913-1914, held on the same site. Profits from the exhibition were used to create sports fields, and to erect a Temperate - or Cool - House in 1916-1921 for the year-round display of flowering plants. Other parts of the Wintergardens were planned at the same time, but not carried out until the late 1920s, when a Tropical House, Fernery and connecting courtyard were added. The gardens provided a focus for promenades in the winter months and were part of the gentrification of the park, which had earlier been seen as a haunt of 'undesirables'. The Domain had been set aside as Crown land in 1841 and enshrined as a place of public recreation in 1844.

The structures were designed by William Henry Gummer and Charles Reginald Ford, who were among the leading architects of their day. The Temperate and Tropical houses are barrel-vaulted steel and glass structures, arranged symmetrically on either side of the complex. They are separated by the enclosed courtyard, while the Fernery occupies a more irregular grotto setting to the rear. The courtyard contains a number of statues, added in 1945, and a sunken pond that was modified in 1954. Each structure within the Wintergardens was designed to display different types of flora, the Temperate House having exotic potted plants and the Tropical House more permanent plantings, such as banana and ravanela (traveller's palm). The fernery is notable for its display of New Zealand plants, some of which may have come from a collection that won the first Loder Cup in 1926. The cup was established by the New Zealand Institute of Horticulture to encourage the appreciation and cultivation of native flora.

The Domain Wintergardens are among the best-preserved examples of their kind in the country and are nationally significant for demonstrating early twentieth-century garden design. They demonstrate attitudes to the natural world at that time, including an interest in exotic flora 'discovered' during European colonial expansion. They are particularly important for reflecting changes in approach to flora during the 1920s, with a growing emphasis on New Zealand plants. The Wintergardens are also significant for their association with the Auckland Industrial, Agricultural and Mining Exhibition, and the role of public parks as places of education and recreation. They are important for showing the architectural versatility of Gummer and Ford, and the value placed on public buildings in the early twentieth century. They have connections with other historic structures in the park - including the nearby rotunda, tea kiosk and Auckland War Memorial Museum - and enjoy high public esteem as popular and much-visited buildings.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The foundation stone of the Cool House reads: 'In commemoration of the Auckland Industrial, Agricultural and Mining Exhibition 1913-14 this building was erected and these grounds laid out from the profits earned by the Auckland Exhibition'.

The driving force behind the scheme was George Elliot, Exhibition Chairman and Chairman of the Bank of New Zealand. The Exhibition profits of £4000 were used and a large amount of the construction cost was covered by donations from Auckland benefactors. This second stage was completed by Fletcher Construction for a cost of £19500. The complex was opened by the Mayor of Auckland, George Baildon, on May 2 1928. In the New Zealand context the Wintergardens was a further example of a civilising impulse at a time when New Zealand was moving beyond its colonial infancy.

Architectural Significance:

The Wintergardens conform to a well-defined model of nineteenth century garden structures and is typical of the later and more refined examples of glasshouse design. It portrays some of Gummer's architectural ideas assimilated from his overseas experience.

The skilful use of materials and the competence with which the totality of the design has been carried out mark this complex as the finest example of its kind in New Zealand.

Townscape/Landmark Significance:

The Wintergardens are part of a most notable complex of buildings. Its distinctive form harmonizes with the parkland and complements the nearby dominant mass of the Auckland War Memorial Museum.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

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.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Architectural Description (Style):

The Domain Wintergardens' dominant decorative impulse is found in its constructional elements; the lattice structure of the roof trusses, the circular window mullions; the roof lantern and the contrast of masonry buttresses with the intricacy of the steel structure.

Applied decoration had been kept to a minimum, being found in the detailed plaster plinths, window ledges and cornices. The only overt use of decoration as secondary elements is found in the scrolled caps on top of the brick piers and the scrolled reliefs on the bargeboards fronting the entrance porticos to each glass house.

The complex comprises two barrel vaulted steel and glass structures, supported on buttressed brick piers, separated along a secondary axis by an enclosed court featuring a sunken pool. The entrance follows the major symmetrical axis, which terminates in an informal grotto fernery. The complex overlooks the Domain Kiosk and duck ponds and the panorama of harbour and city.

The paved courtyard and pool with its accompanying Jarrah pergola colonnades binds the two vaulted structures into a single architectural composition.

Notable Features

Registration covers all structures within the Wintergarden complex, their fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications. The structures lie on the site of a scoria quarry for the construction of Domain Drive, and the 1913-1914 Auckland Industrial, Agricultural and Mining Exhibition

Special Features: The various statues and ornaments occurring throughout the complex.

Construction Dates

Site of scoria quarry

1913 - 1914
Site of Auckland Industrial, Agricultural and Mining Exhibition

Original Construction
1916 - 1921
Construction of Temperate House

Original Construction
1927 - 1928
Construction of Tropical House, pergola and courtyard

Original Construction
1929 - 1930
Construction of Fernery

1945 -
Statues added

1954 -
Ornamental pool remodelled

1993 - 1994
Fernery pergola rebuilt

Construction Details

Foundations: Brick piles with reinforced concrete footings.

Walls: 0.8 metre square buttressed brick piers, as compressive supports for 100mm x 250mm reinforced concrete lintels acting as ties for the roof structure. This enables an extensive amount of the wall area to be glazed.

Roof: Barrel vaulted structure comprised of series of steel lattice trusses. Trusses at 3.3m centres, span 1m are 450mm deep and fixed with 6mm rivets. (Working Drawings held by Hoadley Budge Olphert).

Completion Date

21st August 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Auckland University

Auckland University

Sheppard Collection Library no. G50

Bush, 1971

G .W. A. Bush, 'Decently and In Order: The Government of the City of Auckland 1840-1971', Auckland, 1971


New Zealand Building Progress

New Zealand Building Progress

Sept 1916, pp.729-30

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

30 April 1994, p.2


Aug 12 1916

Aug 26 1916

Apr 30 1928

Nov 30 1933

Feb 28 1945

Dec 14 1966

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

'The Domain Wintergardens, Domain Drive, Auckland Domain', Buildings Classification Committee Report, Wellington, 1989 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

New Zealand Institute of Architects Journal

New Zealand Institute of Architects Journal (NZIA)

Mar 20 1967, pp86-90

Pevsner, 1976

Nikolaus Pevsner, A History of Building Types, London, 1976

Fleming, 1980

John Fleming, Hugh Honour and N. Pevsner, Dictionary of Architecture, London, 1980

The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, Third Edition, Harmondsworth 1980

Macmillian Encyclopedia of Architects, 1982

Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects. The Free Press, New York, 1982

Kohlmaier, 1981

G Kohlmaier & B Von Sartory. Houses of Glass. A Nineteenth Century Building Type. MIT Press, Massachusetts, 1981

Auckland City Council

Auckland City Council

File No. 15/162 part one

APL, Nos 1916-60, 1927-270

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.