Art deco is well-known in New Zealand but its successor — the Moderne style — is less well-known, and we have several distinctive examples in Oriental Bay.
This Moderne style took art deco a bit further. Buildings got bigger and, prompted partly by the experience of the 1931 Napier earthquake and partly as a response to new overseas styles, heavy decoration was shed and sleeker forms favoured.
It’s surprising that so many buildings were built in Wellington — including in Oriental Bay — in the 1930s, during the Depression. The 1920s had seen an absolute building boom which the Depression largely ended. Building activity never actually ceased, however, as can be seen in our own suburb. To see examples of the Moderne style, take a walk, starting at Olympus, the curving blue and white building at the corner of Grass Street and Oriental Parade. Continue along the Parade towards the city and pass Sunhaven with its five balconies. Our third example is Anscombe Flats near the bottom of Oriental Terrace. Its superb Moderne style includes lovely rounded corners and moulded window hoods.
Olympus and Anscombe Flats were designed by Edmund Anscombe (1873-1948), one of New Zealand’s most distinguished architects. He bought the land in 1933, at the age of 60 when he was widowed. He planned to sell the apartments and live on the top floor of Anscombe. The building was completed in 1937 and Anscombe lived there until his death in 1948. A modern addition has been added to the top floor.
Olympus has an entrance in the side street away from the bay and our most frequent winds. It also avoids taking space on the sea side with its spectacular views. There are no porches jutting out in front of each flat, which add to the streamline effect. Sunhaven, between the two Anscombe buildings, was designed by Victor Smith and built in 1939. It does not use the rounded corners so beloved by the Moderne style but he does use the flat reinforced concrete slab walls, the projecting balconies with curved corners, the rolled steel hand-railing and the flat roof — all hallmarks of the Moderne. Although the original plan was for eleven stories, the Council reduced it to six. Even so, at the time it was built, it was the highest building in Oriental Parade.
— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018