In memory of Centrepoint

The book  ‘Why Buildings Fall down’ by Matthys LevyMario Salvadori and Kevin Woest, suggests that ‘gravity gets all buildings in the end’.

Of the original seven wonders of the world, only one, the Great Pyramid of Giza, is still standing.  The reason is perhaps, that with its sloping sides,  it could be considered pre-collapsed.

Our 1973 Centrepoint shopping centre, in the main street of Masterton, may have been one of the seven wonders of the Wairarapa.

Sadly it wasn’t gravity that got it, but the wrecker’s ball.

For the information of anyone passing through Masterton on their way to a beach, these holidays, Aratoi, the Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, has an current exhibition Transistors which closes on 14 February.  It’s worth a look.

Curated by Sydney based  I.C.A.N. the curators philosophise about ‘the new architectural flowering and its enmeshing with the forward looking socio-political outlook’, that occurred in the mid seventies in New Zealand.

Interestingly its construction coincided with the political demise of Robert Muldoon.

Our progressive Wellington-based client wanted to bring arcade shopping into Masterton.

I admit to being of the view that Martinborough is the most pleasant town in the Wairarapa, because it has a centre a ‘town square’, which tells even the wandering cows, that they have arrived at a ‘place’.  Featherston, Greytown, Carterton and penultimately, Masterton have no discernable arrival place.

They are, what is described in planning terms, as ribbon developments.

As a frisky young practitioner in 1974, the obvious gesture was to define the intersection of Bannister and Chapel Streets, as the centre of Masterton, by raising a tower.

Hence its name.

As well as a visual marker, the tower, with its public viewing platform  gave splendid views over the town and the surrounding countryside.

Unfortunately local vandals didn’t appreciate this idea and quickly proceeded to trash the entire interior, which led to its being shut off for public access.

This sort of made the whole exercise Centrepointless.

Having been reduced to the status of a folly, it was then demolished .

New Zealand, a young and practical nation, does not embrace follies all that well.

We are perhaps not yet as mature as say the English, who have grown over centuries to  enjoy eccentricity in building designs.

The 1900 L’Exposition Universelle in Paris,  featured the Eiffel tower  (not to compare of course with little Centrepoint)

The point is that it too was a folly.

It endured a long period of opprobrium amongst Parisians, until they really did get that it actually was a new and optimistic statement of a brighter future, and is now so loved that its demolition is inconceivable.

There are some towers that have survived in New Zealand because they were functional, they held a volume of water at their tops so that gravity could do her thing with the pressure.

Hawera and Invercargill feature in our heritage lists as having such towers.

Pity that in 1974 Masterton’s water supply was on mains pressure, so that our tower could have had a legitimate function, and subsequently been more respected.