Palmerston North

Palmerston North is generally regarded as dull even by New Zealand standards – “but at least it’s a safe place to bring up your kids, and the schools are OK.” Given that there are some notorious local gangs I’m not sure this is really true, but I suspect Palmie may be better than its reputation: it has some pleasant parks, the weather is better than in Wellington, and Massey University feels like an identifiable asset to the city – which is more than I’ll say of Victoria University in Wellington.

Some of the modern buildings in the centre do little to lift the spirits, but let’s start with some from happier times: Art Deco and a little earlier. The happiest place of all is surely the Ladies Rest – photographed here just before the police officer intervened with ‘Excuse me, sir…’

As usual there’s a good crop from the earlier 20th century:

Sadly the later 20th century did little for Palmie, giving it some true horrors:

Apart from these there are some other pleasant and interesting buildings that deserve a mention. The Square Edge Arts Centre looks a bit Art Deco but was actually built in the 1940s. It has almost no real Deco about it and is basically a 1950s office building, but using one of New Zealand’s favourite decorating techniques it’s been worked over and extravagantly over-decorated with colour.

Palmerston North – Square Edge Arts Centre (exterior)

All that colour is wonderful, but I also love the classic 1940 calm of the staircase inside.

Palmerston North – Square Edge Arts Centre (interior)

As for the clock tower – is it too minimal? It’s very elegantly executed in white translucent glass that makes it almost ethereal. Again I like it, particularly when you consider what the brutalists might have done with it instead.

Palmerston North – Clock Tower

Lastly, three churches. There are plenty of others, but these particularly caught my attention.

All Saints on the Square is clearly Victorian, with all that that implies in New Zealand – its earthquake rating is 3% and it’s currently talking of a massive fund-raising campaign to strengthen itself and build an extension.

Palmerston North – All Saints on the Square

St Peter’s Church is yet another of New Zealand’s ‘concrete churches’, which are so strange that they have a Concrete Churches webpage of their own. This one is slightly more interesting that most, outside, and quite a lot nicer on the inside. This isn’t really saying a lot, but it means people have put some into friendly-ing it up.

Palmerston North – St Peter’s (Concrete) Church

Last is the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, a Catholic church whose whiteness gleams out above the town centre. This is largely due to another New Zealand decorating technique – an overall, every-last-corner,  coat of Sandtex – but in this case the result is stunning.  The windows are stunning too, so it all gets quite a lot of photos here.