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ASB Bank Building

Napier, New Zealand
1 of 7
Maori motifs decorate the structure

The ASB Bank Building in Napier, New Zealand was designed in 1933 and features a maori motif in the stripped classical art deco structure.


In 1931 the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand where Napier is located experienced a major earthquake followed by fires which destroyed the existing Victorian architecture of the town. Given the extensive damage town planners, engineers and architects called for earthquake proof buildings to be erected. Over a two year period, Napier was almost completely reconstructed in the most prominent style at the time, Art Deco. The result is one of the most dense concentrations of Art Deco style architecture in the world.


The ASB Building is a single-storey construction which was previously owned by the Bank of New Zealand, was built with reinforced concrete, bricks and native stone granite from Coromandel. The building is distinctively decorated with a Maori frieze along the exterior.

The interior has a six metre high banking chamber, while the roof is supported by four columns. The ceiling also features decorative Maori patterns, with the coffers plastered with a Kowhaiwhai border, painted in traditional colours of red, black and white. This decoration that borders the ceiling bays was plastered in-situ. The building archives state that there was 12-14 plasterers working for approximately a month to complete the buildings decorative features.

Maori and Mayan Influence

The entrance to the building is flanked with two bronze lamp corbels which are to represent the 'wealth of the tribe' through Maori tradition.

It has been argued that many of the embellishments and decorative elements are not purely Maori influences. Given that Art Deco often borrowed motifs from ancient civilizations, the designs featured on the ASB Bank, particularly the exterior frieze, are Maori adaptations of Egyptian, Aztec and Mayan designs. This is also common in 'Pueblo Deco' in New Mexico where native symbols and motifs have been adapted to suit European taste.

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alicelee, November 5th, 2013
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