Roy Cowan: BP House, 1970

Artist: Roy Cowan
Title: Unknown
Medium: Unknown
Dimensions: Unknown
Date: 1970
Original location: BP House, 20 Customhouse Quay, CBD, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: Stephenson & Turner
Current location: Unknown
Heritage status: None known

Located in the foyer of the BP House theaterette, this wall sculptures included built-in lighting.

Little is known about this work, or its fate. Please contact us if you have any information.

Guy Ngan: Wool House, 1983

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Seascape
Medium: Cast aluminium, 19 panels
Dimensions: H2940 x W2120 x D70mm
Date: 1983
Original location: Wool House (New Zealand Wool Board Building), cnr Customhouse Quay, Featherston & Brandon Sts, CBD, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: Stephenson & Turner
Current location: Collection of Ron Sang
Heritage status: None known

Seascape is an abstract work made out of 19 panels of cast aluminium. Originally installed in the New Zealand Wool Board building known as “Wool House” in Wellington’s CBD, the work was later removed and put into storage. Some years later, architect Ron Sang acquired the piece and relocated it to his home in Epsom, Auckland, where it remains.

Guy Ngan: Data General, 1984

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Data General
Medium: Stainless Steel with reflective adhesive
Dimensions: Unknown
Date: 1984
Original location: Data General entrance lobby, 76 Boulcott St (off Plimmer Steps), CBD, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: Unknown
Current location: Lost
Heritage status: None known.

Ngan’s Data General mural extended along the corridors of a commercial building in central Wellington. Somewhat optically challenging as an artwork, rectangles of 3M reflective adhesive dance up and down the walls, punctuated by stainless steel strips. Horizontal and vertical lines collide, enhanced by fluorescent lighting strips on a reflective ceiling. Ngan’s idea was to bring in some light to an otherwise dark entrance way.

Ngan would later experiment with reflective surfaces in his mural for the National Bank in Hamilton.

Guy Ngan: Jasmin Licensed Chinese Restaurant, 1983

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Jasmin Licensed Chinese Restaurant
Medium: Mixed media including restaurant décor (colour scheme and furniture), brand/logo design, silk-screen printed room divider panels, and a paint & bamboo diptych.
Dimensions: Variable
Date: 1983
Original location: Jasmin Licensed Chinese Restaurant, Mezzanine level, James Cook Arcade, 294-296 Lambton Quay, CBD, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: tbc
Current location: The décor largely remains as it originally was. The paint and bamboo diptych has been removed, and remains held by the family of the original owner.
Heritage status: None as yet

During the early eighties, Ngan was responsible for the interior design and branding of the new Jasmin Licensed Chinese Restaurant. His creative contribution was extensive and included floor plans, designs for the restaurant’s brand/logo, interior décor (including colour scheme and furniture manufactured by Formway), silk-screen printed room divider panels, and a mixed-media painting diptych.

Sold by the original owner to a long-serving employee, the décor  of the restaurant largely remains as it originally was. The paint & bamboo diptych was removed and remains in the possession of the family of the original owner.

Guy Ngan: Wellington Civic Centre, 1974

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Geometric Progression (also variously referred to as Geometric Growth and Geometric Progressions)
Medium: [Original] Concrete, stainless steel; [Remake] Sandblasted, zinc & powder-coated 8mm mild steel plate, stainless steel
Dimensions: H8500mm (W x L TBC)
Date: 1974
Original location: Civic Centre, Cnr Victoria & Mercer Sts, CBD, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: n/a
Current location: Removed in 1989 for the development of Civic Square and damaged in transit. Reconstructed and reinstalled at the Michael Fowler car park, Wakefield St, in 2006.
Heritage status: Wellington City Council Public Art Collection.

In 1969 seven sculptors were invited to submit proposals for a new sculpture for Wellington’s Civic Square. Guy Ngan won the competition, and Geometric Progression (also variously called Geometric Growth and Geometric Progressions) was commissioned by Wellington City Council with funding assistance from Mainline Contractors Pty Ltd (later Mainzeal). The sculpture was  constructed by Mainline Contractors and installed in 1974 at the intersection of Victoria and Mercer streets in the Wellington CBD.

In his proposal, Ngan stated that the title (then referred to as “Geometric Growth) implies “the application of geometry in compliance with natural laws. Visually, this echos the harmonious pattern of our houses, roadways and, more recently, our motorway, in the way these follow the natural formation of the land and water surfaces of our City.  There are of course, many other ways this work and its title can be interpreted at various levels but at this stage, I prefer to leave these interpretations to the beholders.” The blocks pointing towards the sky were said to encourage aspirational thinking.

The original work was uprooted in two hours by two front-end loaders in 1989 to make way for the development of Civic Square (including new council buildings and the Wellington Central Library). This hasty uplift damaged the sculpture beyond repair. It languished in storage in the council’s Newtown Depot for some years until a Wellington City Council grant of $40,000 was used to recreate the sculpture, with Ngan’s involvement.

In 2006 the City Council arranged to have the work reconstructed, replacing the original concrete base with 8mm steel plate. It was unveiled by Mayor Kerry Prendergast in December 2006 in its current position next to to the Michael Fowler car park on Wakefield Street.

Guy Ngan: Wellington Teachers’ Training College, 1971

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Acorn for Education
Medium: Cast bronze set on a concrete plinth
Dimensions: H3230 x W2560 x D1140mm
Date: 1971
Original location: The Quad, 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.

Guy Ngan: Reserve Bank, 1972

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Taiaha
Medium: Bronze with integrated lighting system
Dimensions: Approx. height 9.14m (30ft), weight 1180kg (2600lb). Exact dimensions & weight unknown
Date: 1972
Original location: Reserve Bank, 2 The Terrace, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington CBD
Architect: Ministry of Works
Current location: In situ
Heritage status: TBC

In 1970 Guy Ngan left his job with the architectural firm Stephenson & Turner to focus solely on his arts practice. It was in this year that the Reserve Bank ran a competition to select a sculpture for the exterior wall of its new head office. Ngan entered Taiaha and won the competition.

Taiaha is made of 50 interlocking parts and weighs more than one tonne. For Ngan, the work represented the bank’s solidity and strength, symbolised by the inclusion of two stylised taiaha (Māori weapons used in ceremonial challenges and, historically, in battle). An article in 1972 noted that this work was the biggest bronze sculpture mounted in Wellington since the War Memorial horse and rider.

Guy Ngan: Automobile Association House, 1971

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Unknown
Medium: Aluminium relief with integrated lighting system
Dimensions: Approx. 14.63m (48ft) in length and 46.45m² (500ft²) in area. Exact dimensions unknown
Date: 1971
Original location: Automobile Association House, 164-166 Willis St, Te Aro, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: TBC
Current location: Unknown
Heritage status: TBC

Cast locally by T & E Foundries, Ngan’s wall sculpture for Automobile Association House was 48ft (14.63m) long, weighed around 1000lbs (453.6kg), and was backlit at night by concealed lighting. The connected circles symbolised mechanised wheels, while the linear patterns portrayed a roading system. One passerby commented, “I don’t like modern art but that looks like bits of car parts.”

In April 2000 Ngan noted that the work had been “mutilated”, possibly as it had been cut down to accommodate a verandah which had been added to the facade of the building.

The current whereabouts of this work is unknown.

Guy Ngan: National Bank Gisborne, 1969

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Pacific Voyages (Cook Bicentenary Mural)
Medium: New Zealand timber and bronze, mounted on cork
Dimensions: Approx. 5.6 square metres (60 sq ft). Exact dimensions unknown
Date: 1969
Original location: National Bank Gisborne Branch, 31-35 Gladstone Rd, Tairāwhiti Gisborne
Architect: TBC
Current location: Held by a private collector in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Heritage status: TBC

This work was the result of Ngan winning the 1969 National Bank Mural Award: his second win in a row after his successful entry into the 1968 competition which resulted in the work “Habitation” being installed in National Bank’s head offices in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington.

Installed in October 1969 as part of the Cook Bicentenary celebrations, the mural depicts the paths of Cook’s voyages around the Pacific. A timber map sits on a cork background, and a coin-like bronze medallion depicting Cook presides over the scene.

As reported by The Gisborne Herald on 7 October 1969, the judges commented “This artist again reveals his outstanding ability to produce a forceful design tempered with elegance and charm.” 

Guy Ngan: ANZ The Terrace Branch, 1962

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Unknown
Dimensions: Unknown
Date: 1962
Original location: Rear wall, banking chamber, ANZ branch, Shell House, 96 The Terrace, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington CBD.
Architect: Stephenson & Turner
Current location: Unknown.
Heritage status: n/a

This mural was Ngan’s first job with the architectural firm Stephenson & Turner.