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: National Bank Head Office, 1968

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Habitation
Medium: Wood and cork wall sculpture
Dimensions: Approx. 6 square metres (65 sq ft). Exact dimensions unknown
Date: 1968 (building opened in 1970)
Original location: National Bank Head Office, 170-186 Featherston St, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, CBD
Architect: TBC
Current location: Ngan noted the work as being “destroyed” in April 2000
Heritage status: n/a

This mural was the result of Ngan winning the 1968 National Bank mural award. He won again in 1969 and 1971.

Guy Ngan: ANZ Queen St Branch, 1964

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Q & V Mural
Medium: Glass mosaic tiles
Dimensions: Approx. 244 square metres (800 sq ft). Exact dimensions unknown.
Date: 1964 (elsewhere dated 1960, but the building opened in October 1964).
Original location: Rear wall, banking chamber, ANZ Bank, corner of Queen & Victoria Sts (203A Queen St), Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland CBD.
Architect: Stephenson & Turner
Current location: Unknown, possibly painted over.
Heritage status: n/a

Ngan’s large mural design for the ANZ Bank Queen St covered a two-story high wall in the public banking chamber. It was also his final public artwork executed in mosaic glass tiles.

Guy Ngan: Canterbury University Engineering School Lecture Hall, 1957

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Concrete
Dimensions: Approx. 457 m²
Date: 1957
Original location: Lecture Hall exterior, Engineering School, University of Canterbury, Creyke Rd (opposite 48), Christchurch Ōtautahi
Architect: Helmut Einhorn, Ministry of Works Architectural Division
Current location: Demolished in 2011 due to earthquake damage.
Heritage status: n/a

The University of Canterbury School of Engineering’s Lecture Hall was completed during Guy Ngan’s time as an employee of the Ministry of Works (under Gordon Wilson), where he advised on how public art might be incorporated into architectural design.

Fondly referred to as the ‘Mushroom’ due to its appearance, the iconic Lecture theatre was one of the first buildings to appear on the Ilam campus. It was added to and modified several times during the years, and its copper roof gradually aged to a verdigris hue.

The building was damaged in a major earthquake in Canterbury on 22 February 2011, after which a decision was made to demolish it, along with Ngan’s mural.

A geometric mosaic tile mural featuring bands and rectangles in greys, with orange and yellow accents, 1987

Guy Ngan: Broadcasting House/Bowen State Building linkblock, 1957

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Mosaic tiles
Dimensions: Approx. 12m in length
Date: 1957
Original location: Broadcasting House and Bowen State Building linkblock, Pipitea, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: Gordon Wilson, Ministry of Works Architectural Division
Current location: Destroyed
Heritage status: n/a

Guy Ngan’s mosaic tile mural for the linkblock between the Bowen State Building and Broadcasting House was designed and completed at a similar time to the Bledisloe State Building.

As Ken Davis notes, “Both the Bowen State Building and Broadcasting House were designed to form an architecturally harmonious whole and were separated by a sunken court and then linked by a canopy and mural faced wall. The mural consisted of abstract patterns of brightly coloured ceramic tiles and seemed inspired by modern abstract art.”

Colour-blocks in a range of greys, yellow and orange filled an entire wall and provided a backdrop for generous plantings.

Sadly, this work is no longer. Broadcasting House was demolished in 1997, and it is likely this mural was destroyed at the same time.

A geometric mosaic tile mural featuring bands and rectangles in greys, with orange and yellow accents, 1987
Image: Ken Davis, 1987

Guy Ngan: Naenae Post Office, 1959

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Linoleum
Dimensions: Approx. H5400mm x W6400mm
Date: 1959
Original location: Naenae Post Office, Hillary Court, Naenae, Lower Hutt
Architect: Walter Frederic Charles Vine, with Gordon Wilson (Supervising Architect), Ministry of Works and Development
Current location: Presumed destroyed
Heritage status: No known protection

Mid-century New Zealand was marked by the end of both the depression and WWII. An urgent need for housing struck the country and inspired the government to implement a plan to construct thousands of houses. Lower Hutt was one beneficiary of the plan and several suburbs—and their respective community centres—sprung up including those of Epuni, Taita, and Naenae.

Designed by Viennese émigré architect Ernst Plischke, Naenae’s Hillary Court opened in 1954, with the Naenae Post Office as the centrepiece of what may have been New Zealand’s first pedestrianised shopping mall.

The design of the Post Office building was handled by architect Walter Frederic Charles Vine, under the supervision of Government Architect Gordon Wilson. During this time Guy Ngan was employed full-time at the Ministry of Works Architectural Division as a design consultant. In this capacity he was invited to to create a site-specific work for the main public-facing area. Hon Michael Mocham, Post Master General, laid the foundation and opening plaques. The contractor was J M Construction, and the building was officially opened on 4 December 1959.

This artwork is unique in Ngan’s oeuvre as it is the only known linoleum work he completed (most of his public murals and sculptures were constructed from concrete, aluminium, and tile); it is a colourful work (also rare for his public artworks); and it is the only known two-dimensional public artwork that Ngan made for the Hutt Valley. Linoleum was a popular mid-century flooring product, created primarily from linseed oil, albeit with traces of lead. Highly durable, it was applied in a range of commercial and domestic settings. Renowned as a thrifty creative, it is possible that Ngan made this mural from offcuts of linoleum.

The Naenae branch of the Post Office closed in 2016, however the mural had already disappeared by this time, possibly when additions, alterations, and general “redecoration throughout” occurred to the building in 1984.

Image: Guy Ngan, courtesy of the Ngan family