Bank of New Zealand Building

205 Princes Street, Dunedin

  • Bank of New Zealand Building, Dunedin. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 21/01/2016.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building, Dunedin. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shelley Morris. Taken By: Shelley Morris – Shells . Date: 4/01/2016.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building, Dunedin. Ceiling detail. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shelley Morris. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Shells. Date: 21/01/2016.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building, Dunedin. Interior detail. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shelley Morris. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Shells. Date: 21/01/2016.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7299 Date Entered 14th December 1995

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Dunedin City

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

pt Secs 48 & 55 Blk IX, Town of Dunedin

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicates modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.

This historic place has always played a prominent role in the commercial and social life of Dunedin, first as a hotel and then later as a site for the Bank of New Zealand's two Exchange branches.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Aesthetic:

The Bank of New Zealand Buildings is an impressive element in the streetscape of the south end of the central city area. The Bank of New Zealand Building occupies and important site on the corner of Princess and Rattray Streets, and its harmonious classical facades are a vital element in the local townscape. Its Oamaru stone facades are rich both in classical architectural detail, and in other decorative and sculptural detail such as the relief carvings of human faces. The building also forms an effective contrast to the sober Presbyterian Gothic of the Captain Cargill Monument, erected in granite, opposite the bank building. There is also an elaborate coffered ceiling of the main banking chamber inside.

Architectural:

The Bank of New Zealand Building is a fine two-storey building in the Victorian Academic Classical style. Completed in 1882, it has long been considered the masterpiece of its architect, William Armson, one of the very first colonially trained, professional architects to work in New Zealand. The architect has adopted a Palazzo format, and designed a classical building of symmetrical and harmonious proportions, with a masterly deployment of select forms on a clear structural framework. The rich decorative detail of the facades is always held in control by the strong, unified architectural elements. Armson achieves here a High Renaissance clarity of design using essentially the sixteenth century vocabulary of Bramante and Palladio.

Archaeological:

This site is known to have been occupied since the late 1840s when Dunedin was first settled by Europeans.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Social:

The site of the Bank of New Zealand is closely linked with Dunedin's commercial history. The site, formerly occupied by a hotel, is in the commercial heart of the city and has played a central role in the social life of Dunedin from the mid nineteenth century.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicates modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.

The following comments are made in relation to the criteria identified under S.23(2) of the Historic Places Act 1993.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

With such a rich European history of occupation, the Bank of New Zealand site has considerable value as an archaeological site. The history of the three buildings to have graced the site, has considerable potential to inform people about the workings of a large bank branch in late Victorian New Zealand.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The Bank of New Zealand Building was designed and constructed over the period [1879-1883]. The architect has adopted a Palazzo format. The architect, William Barnett Armson, was one of the first colonially-trained architects to work in New Zealand. He trained in Melbourne in architecture, engineering and surveying, and returned to New Zealand in 1862. [The building can be regarded as Armson's masterpiece].

Following the Palazzo format, the two main floors of the building sit on a rusticated base (in this case) of Port Chalmers' basalt. Both floors of the two street facades are rhythmically divided into five facade bays symbolising trabeated construction. One of these bays forms the main entrance to the bank on [Princes Street]. The general proportions - of column width to bay width, of column height to bay width etc - seem beautifully matched, in strict obedience to classical principles. The building is united horizontally by its string courses and friezes; and by its columns with their two orders. The ground floor bays are flanked by paired or single attached Tuscan columns; in fact, each of the window bays form, in effect, a Colosseum motif, with a rusticated round-headed arch supported on attached Ionic columns of grey Aberdeen granite. The entablature above, supported by the giant order of Tuscan columns, has a frieze decorated with rosettes and stylised triglyphs. A bracketed string course separates this from the base of the floor above.

On the first floor, the same rhythms apply, although here the bays are flanked by attached Corinthian columns, and the windows are set in classical aedicules with segmental arches. The columns support a plain architrave and a decorative frieze of rosettes and acanthine bases to small modillions running under the corona of the cornice. A parapet caps the building, with small piers in relief matching the columniation underneath.

The building is further enriched by the quality of carved detail on the stonework. The main entrance, for example, is [richly] articulated, both in its arch, and in its flanking piers of vermiculated ashlar. The spandrel of the arch above the doorway is carved with a round wreath set within which is a bush scene featuring a solitary Kiwi and pongas. The voussoirs of the lower window arches features human faces, each of which differs subtly. At all levels of the facade there is careful and restrained detailing, the effect of which is not to overwhelm but rather to enrich the harmonious proportions of the building. The decorative detail is always held in control by the architectural elements.

The High Renaissance clarity of design Armson achieves on the facades is matched in the main banking chamber by the coffered ceiling which features in its design English roses and Scottish thistles. According to the nomination form, this ceiling is thought to be the work of an Italian craftsman who also worked at Larnach's Castle.

There have been some modifications made to the exterior. According to the nomination form, the balustrading of the parapet has been removed and replaced with solid masonry panels. Balustrading in front of the first-floor windows has also, apparently, been removed. The chimneys have been demolished.

There have also been substantial interior alterations and modifications, particularly during the 1950s. These modifications (particularly those of the exterior) do not overall cloud the integrity of the building.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The place has always been important to the commercial life of Dunedin. When the Royal was built, the harbour lapped the edge of the property; Tod records that boats for Port Chalmers were advertised as leaving from the Royal. Reclamation distanced the site from the water but in no way diminished its commercial importance, since the Exchange quickly became the commercial heart of post gold rush Dunedin. Robyn Griffin observes that 'wherever possible, Victorians located their banks in a prominent position when they could be easily seen. This was usually on a corner". Several buildings facing this site on lower Rattray Street were demolished during the 1960s to build [Wickliffe] House, but the presence of Cargill's Monument, the Stuart Memorial, the MFL Mutual Building (Category I) and several Category 2 buildings around that intersection give it a strong heritage feel.

Conclusion:

The Bank of New Zealand Building, 205 Princes St, Dunedin, is recommended for registration as a Category I as a place of special and outstanding historical and cultural heritage significance and value. This is a building of clear architectural integrity and quality which functions as a vital piece of townscape, enriching its local setting. It is the acknowledged master work of an important colonial architect. The site has always played a prominent role in the commercial and social life of Dunedin.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Armson, William Barnett

Armson (1832/3?-83) was born in England and emigrated to New Zealand with his family in around 1852. They shifted to Australia two years later and settled in Melbourne. Here Armson was articled to the architectural and civil engineering firm of Purchas and Swyer for a period of six years. He was trained in architecture, engineering and surveying.

Armson returned to New Zealand in 1862 during the Otago gold rushes. He was appointed architectural draughtsman in the Provincial Engineer's Department and was soon promoted to Assistant Architect. Made redundant in 1864, Armson practised in Dunedin before superiving construction of St Luke's Church at Oamaru in 1865.

Armson moved to Hokitika in 1866 and practised on his own account, designing a wide variety of buildings. These include bank branch offices in towns around the West Coast, and the Hokitika Town Hall (1869).

He moved to Christchurch in 1870 and it was here that he prospered as an architect. His buildings include the former Public Library (1875), the Bank of New Zealand, Lyttelton (1878), the Bank of New Zealand, Princes Street, Dunedin (1879), Christchurch Girls' High School (1880), St Mary's Church, Timaru (1880) as well as many shops and offices.

From 1870 until his death, Armson was unrivalled as a commercial architect in Christchurch. He was also known for his professionalism and in 1872 was one of the founding members of the Canterbury Association of Architects. The practice founded by Armson in 1870 continued as Collins Architects Limited.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1879 - 1883

Maintenance/repairs
2011 - 2013
Restoration project

Information Sources

Griffin, 1983

R.H. Griffin, 'Victorian Bank Architecture in New Zealand: A paper delivered to the Australasian Victorian Studies Association on 26 January 1982 at Massey University of the Manawatu, Palmerston North, New Zealand', BNZ Archives, Wellington, 1983 (with corrections)

Knight, 1988

Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Nomination Form

Shaw, 1991

Peter Shaw, New Zealand Architecture: From Polynesian Beginnings to 1990, Auckland, 1991

Stacpoole, 1971

John Stacpoole, William Mason: The First New Zealand Architect, Auckland, 1971

Reed, 1973

A.H. Reed, Annals of Early Dunedin, Chronicles of the Eighteen-sixties, A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington etc., 1973.

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region office

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.