Guy Ngan: Wellington Teachers’ Training College, 1971

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Acorn for Education
Medium: Cast bronze set on a concrete plinth
Dimensions: H2400mm x W2200mm x L635mm
Date: 1971
Original location: Wellington Teachers’ Training College, 26-40 Donald St, Karori, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: Stanley William (Bill) Toomath, Toomath & Wilson Architects
Current location: Relocated to rear of Cotton Building (North End),  Victoria University of Wellington Kelburn Campus in 2019
Heritage status: Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection, formerly Wellington College of Education Art Collection, accessioned 2009 [VUWCE.2009.92]


Cast by the Turner and Evans Foundry in Newtown in 1971, Acorn for Education was installed on-site in the main quad of the Wellington Teacher’s Training College Karori campus the following year.

Created using the lost polystyrene process where the polystyrene (positive) forms the design mould (negative) and is burnt away by the molten bronze during casting, the sculpture was ground and finished by hand before being assembled onsite. The finished sculpture consists of several bronze sections bolted together, set on a concrete plinth.

Guy was not paid for his design or work but agreed to do the project if the casting costs were covered. The casting and installation costs were funded through donations from people associated with the College, with the Students’ Association donating funds for the concrete base in honour of the College’s recently deceased Vice-Principal, Keith Fox. Inspired by the College’s motto, Lateat scintillula forsam (perhaps a small spark lies hidden here), it was said that the sculpture depicts ‘the roots [of the acorn, which] have tremendous grip on the ground and the shoots are bursting forth, pushing away the husks as the growth expands inside’.*

In 1988 the Wellington Teachers’ Training College changed its name to “Wellington College of Education, which then merged with Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) in 2005. Between 2014-16 the Karori campus was formally transferred to VUW, including its collection of art, with staff and students vacating the site and moving to the VUW Kelburn campus. In 2018 the site’s new owners, Ryman Healthcare, moved to demolish the campus. Acorn was uplifted from its original site by VUW, eventually undergoing cleaning and restoration work before being unveiled at its new site in December 2018.

Ngan also had a smaller maquette cast for his Stokes Valley garden.

* ‘College sculpture symbolises creative imagination in education’, National Education, p.295. ‘Cover caption’, National Education, vol.54, no.588, Jul 1972, p.242.

Thanks to Liz Ngan for her contribution to this text.