War Memorial Hall

Queen's Park, Whanganui

  • War Memorial Hall.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Helen McCracken. Date: 22/01/2002.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Helen McCracken. Date: 22/01/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7442 Date Entered 5th February 1999


City/District Council

Whanganui District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Sec 558 & Sec 559, City of Wanganui


The War Memorial Hall, Wanganui, is considered to be one of the finest examples of New Zealand modernist architecture, and at the time of its construction in 1955-1960 was a radical departure from the norm for civic memorial buildings in New Zealand. The proposal to build a suitable memorial in Wanganui to those who had lost their lives in the Second World War was first formally suggested in 1945. Following the war, the government offered subsidies for the construction of war memorials around the country, with a strong preference for 'living memorials', such as community centres. The government offered the Wanganui Council £50,000 for the new memorial hall. The community raised the remaining money for its construction, which included contributions from the Returned Servicemen's Association and the Scottish Pioneers.

Eventually a site in Queen's Park, a reserve already incorporating public buildings and memorials (including the cenotaph and a memorial to those who had fallen in the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s), was chosen and a public competition was held in 1956. Selected from 42 submissions was the distinctively modern design of Gordon Smith of the Auckland architectural partnership of Greenhough, Smith and Newman. Construction began in 1956 and the building opened on Anzac Day, 25 April 1960. The final design was 'a white clean-lined floating block, a visual mass supported by set back concrete pilotis', all characteristics of the Modern style. Other characteristics of this style can be seen in the curtain-glass wall framed with concrete cube grilles at the northern corner of the building. The central feature of the building, which remains a focus for Anzac Day commemorations, is the constantly lit vestibule containing the Book of Remembrance, visible from a variety of vantage points. Incorporating a large hall, function room and a concert chamber, the building is used for concerts, as a conference facility and for other public events.

The War Memorial Hall has always been widely acknowledged by architectural historians as a landmark in New Zealand architecture for its Modernist design. In recognition of this achievement, it won the New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1961 and the Institute's 25-Year Award in 1998. It remains a focal point for the community, and a key building in Wanganui's Civic Centre. It has cultural and symbolic significance as the city's main war memorial.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Wanganui War Memorial Hall was built in the late 1950s to commemorate Scottish pioneers and locals who had fallen in World War Two. It has been used as a public hall, concert chamber and conference facility since its opening on ANZAC Day, 25 April 1960.

Wanganui's War Memorial Hall is an excellent example of 1950s New Zealand Modernism. It was designed in an open competition in 1955. Completed in 1960, it was awarded the New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal for 1961 and the Institute's 25 Year Award for 1998.

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


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Smith, Gordon

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Pepper & Fromont Ltd

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

MacDonald, A J

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1955 - 1960

2001 -
Re roofed

Completion Date

28th September 2001

Report Written By

Helen McCracken

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places

New Zealand Historic Places

Julia Gatley, 'Modern in Wanganui', No. 68, May 1998, pp.31-33

Journal of the New Zealand Institute of Architects

The Journal of The New Zealand Institute of Architects

'Wanganui War Memorial Hall - A Remarkable Building', Vol.27 No.7. August 1960, pp.167-180

Other Information

NZIA Gold Award Winner 1961, 25 Year Award 1998

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.