Artist: E. Mervyn Taylor
Title: Time and Space
Medium: Carved kauri panel
Dimensions: H800mm x W1850mm
Original location: Entrance foyer, Broadcasting House, 34 Bowen Street, Wellington
Architect: Gordon Wilson, Ministry of Works (Supervising Government Architect)
Current location: RNZ boardroom, Radio New Zealand House, 155 The Terrace, Wellington
Heritage status: No known protection
E. Mervyn Taylor’s “Time and Space” (1963) was originally commissioned for Broadcasting House, Wellington. Led by Government Architect Gordon Wilson, the new state-of-the-art building was, at the time, New Zealand’s most technologically advanced building. Wilson ‘argued for the employment of established artists for projects in new buildings, including schools’ and, walking the talk, many of his projects included commissioned artworks.
Through low relief carvings of the sun and moon surrounded by zodiac signs, Taylor imagined radio waves penetrating the ‘heavens’, alluding to some of his previous engravings particularly those concerning Māori myths and legends. Kauri was selected due to its warm sheen and colour, contrasting with the rimu timber paneling in the building’s foyer, and Taylor spent a total of 700 hours completing the work.
This significant piece was nearly lost after a National-led government made plans to demolish Broadcasting House and replace it with a new ministerial office building. A 196,000-signature petition and public pressure resulted in plans for the ‘Parliamentary Palace’ being shelved, but a new plan surfaced to move the Beehive building and complete the original Parliament Buildings. Broadcasting House was vacated in July 1997 and demolition commenced in mid-September. Two weeks later a mysterious fire broke out in the building. After an eight-hour battle by sixty firefighters this important part of New Zealand’s modern architectural and technological history was destroyed.
Thankfully Taylor’s work was saved due to the foresight of Sharon Crosbie, then Chief Executive of Radio New Zealand. Who ensured Time and Space was retrieved, conserved, and professionally hung in the boardroom of Radio New Zealand House, 155 The Terrace, where it now hangs more than twenty years later.
Text adapted from Ken Davis and Rose Evans’ essay “On The Politics of Time and Space” in Wanted: The Search for the Modernist Murals of E. Mervyn Taylor (Massey Press, 2018).