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: Teal Park, 1971

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Teal Park Rocks
Medium: Basalt blocks
Dimensions: TBC
Date: 1971
Original location: Teal Park, Tamaki Drive, Mechanics Bay/Judges Bay, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland
Architect: n/a
Current location: In situ
Heritage status: Listed by Auckland Council

Named after Air New Zealand’s predecessor, Tasman Empire Airways Ltd, Teal Park was established to commemorate Air New Zealand’s 30th Anniversary.

The park was developed as joint venture between the Harbour Board and Air New Zealand, with the Harbour Board providing the land and rock for the sculpture, and Air New Zealand commissioning Guy Ngan to design the park’s layout.

Referred to by Ngan as a “stone sculpture garden”, the assembly of the blocks was overseen by Harbour Board design engineer Mr Colin Pask who worked from a model provided by Ngan. The basalt rock sculpture is made from stone that was once part of the old Graving Dock that stood at the bottom of Albert and Hobson Sts.

Teal park was officially opened in May 1971. The sculpture was originally twice as tall (15ft high), however it was deemed a health and safety issue, so the height had to be reduced.

A plaque, which has been attached to the sculpture since the park opened, states:

The name of this park and the basalt blocks used in the central feature are both linked with the history of Auckland
On 1st April 1940 Tasman Empire Airways Limited now Air New Zealand pioneered the first commercial Trans Tasman Air Service from Mechanics Bay some 300 yards West of this site
The Basalt Blocks were originally built into the Auckland Dock in 1878 between what are now Hobson and Albert Streets later these blocks became part of the Eastern tide wall
When the seabed in this locality was reclaimed for the container terminal in 1968 the blocks were recovered and now stand as a tangible link with the history of the Port of Auckland

This park is provided by the Auckland Harbour Board the design of the feature was sponsored by Air New Zealand to commemorate their 30th Anniversary

Guy Ngan: Invercargill City Council Administration Building, 1971

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: The City Centennial Mural
Medium: Aluminium
Dimensions: Approx. W3962mm (13ft) x  H2438mm (8ft), and weighs almost 317kg (700lb).
Date: 1971
Original location: Invercargill City Council Administration Building, 101 Esk St, Waihōpai Invercargill
Architect: TBC
Current location: In situ
Heritage status: TBC

In 1969 Invercargill held a competition to select a new artwork to mark the South Island town’s centenary. Guy Ngan won the competition with a scale model made in polystyrene, leading to the creation of this work.

Completed and installed in 1971, the work was cast in Wellington using aluminium donated by COMALCO that included some of the first batch produced at the Bluff foundry.

Installed behind the main reception desk of the Invercargill Council’s Administration Building, the work was said to depict, in a highly stylised and abstracted form, “the development of the Invercargill City from rural to an industrial and commercial community.”

The work was deinstalled and put into storage before being reinstalled in 2020.

Guy Ngan: Government Printing Office, 1966

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Painted concrete relief
Dimensions: Area approx 93 m² / 1,000 ft²
Date: 1966
Original location: Back of Government Printing Office, 10 Mulgrave St, Thorndon, Wellington (work viewable from Thorndon Quay)
Architect: F.G.F Sheppared, Ministry of Works, Architectural Division
Current location: In situ. Building now occupied by Archives NZ.
Heritage status: TBC

The Government Printing Office (later Archives New Zealand) was officially opened in 1966 by Prime Minister Keith Holyoake. A project by the Ministry of Work’s Architectural Division, the build was overseen by Government Architect F.G.F. Sheppard (1959-71). Ngan worked for the division from 1956-1960, after which point he moved to architects Stephenson & Turner. It is possible he designed the work before departing the ministry.

The building has frontages on two streets that taper to a point. To accommodate this, the building is primarily a long rectangle facing Mulgrave Street with a smaller attached wedge-shaped block facing Thorndon Quay.

Ngan’s mural, with its geometric vertical elements, disrupts the horizontal, windowless length of the building, while also providing a graceful visual link between the larger building and the wedge. Taking up an entire wall, the inch-deep shapes are painted a dramatic grey and white.

In 1989 the Government Print building was sold to the Department of Internal Affairs to house Archives New Zealand.

Guy Ngan: Dunedin Dental School Lecture Hall, 1957

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Two murals, both ceramic tile and concrete
Dimensions: Approx 800 sq. ft. / 74 m²
Date: 1957
Original location: Lecture Hall exterior, Dunedin Dental School, University of Otago, 35 Frederick St, Dunedin Ōtepoti
Architect: Gordon Wilson, Government Architect, Ministry of Works
Current location: In situ
Heritage status: TBC

Ngan’s murals for the Dunedin Dental School Lecture Hall exterior were completed the same year as the Engineering School Lecture Hall exterior at Canterbury University in nearby Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Two murals were completed: one at each end of the building. Both still exist.

They are said to have been made with recycled broken tiles.

Guy Ngan: Bledisloe State Building Penthouse, 1956

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Glass mosaic tiles
Dimensions: North & south faces: H3000mm x W6500mm; east and west faces: H3000mm x W12600mm.
Date: 1956
Original location: Penthouse, Bledisloe State Building, Bledisloe Lane, Tamaki Makaurau Auckland CBD
Architect: Gordon Wilson, Ministry of Works Architectural Division
Current location: In situ. Building now occupied by Auckland Council.
Heritage status: Considered item, listed by Auckland Council

Guy Ngan’s mosaic frieze for the Bledisloe State Building was completed in 1956. An advertisement from the time states that “the mosaic tiles were supplied and fixed to this penthouse tower by the skilled tradesmen of the wall and floor tiling division of J. H. M. Carpenter Ltd of Newmarket, Auckland.”

This mosaic later inspired artist Julian Dashper to create his painting Guy Ngan Mural, Bledisloe State Building, Auckland City, 1987. On the topic of this work, Dashper said: “I found Ngan’s mural interesting for a number of reasons – partly because as a kid my Dad worked in the building and so every Friday night I’d go and goof off in the building with the big mural – I was aware then that it was a big piece of art – an enormous work.” (Source: unknown. Copy included in Guy Ngan: Scrapbook number one. Auckland: Ron Sang, 2010, p.41).

Guy Ngan: Eastern & Central Savings Bank, 1980

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Cityscape
Medium: Cast aluminium with spot and concealed lighting
Dimensions: H1400 x W6000 x D200mm
Date: 1980
Original location: Public banking hall, Eastern and Central Savings Bank, Broadway Avenue, Te Papaioea Palmerston North
Architect: Milton Brogden
Current location: Exterior wall Palmerston North City Library, above George Street steps.
Heritage status: Listed by Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust

Cityscape was originally commissioned in 1980 by the Eastern and Central Savings Bank for their Broadway Avenue premises. The sculpture was made from cast aluminium using the ‘lost polystyrene’ process involving carved polystyrene which dissolved during casting. The pieces were then interlocked and bolted together.

When the building was sold, the six-meter long work was too large for the redeveloped interior so was put into storage in a garage/shed as an asset of the then building owner. There it sat for some years until Fran Dibble (wife of sculptor Paul Dibble) rediscovered it following research. It was subsequently donated to the Palmerston North Sculpture Trust by the descendants of J.J. Waldegrave. With the assistance of the Central Energy Trust, the Guardian Trust and the Palmerston North City Library it was re-sited in 2008 to an exterior wall of the Palmerston North City Library above the George St steps.

Joan Calvert & Guy Ngan: The Beehive, 1976

Artist: Joan Calvert & Guy Ngan
Title: Forest in the sun
Medium: Woollen wall-hanging (knotted wool on backing)
Dimensions: H7200 x W9600mm (each panel 2400mm square)
Date: 1976 (building officially opened in 1977)
Original location: Ground floor stairwell, Executive Wing, The Beehive, Parliament, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: Sir Basil Spence/Government Architects, Ministry of Works and Development
Current location: Collection of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand
Heritage status: No known protection

A group of New Zealand’s leading weavers (fifteen in total) were invited to provide a submission for a wall-hanging for the main entrance foyer of the new wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings, colloquially known as “The Beehive”. Forest in the Sun (1976) was chosen. The huge work was the remarkable achievement of a collaboration between respected Wellington fibre-artist, Joan Calvert who interpreted and translated into fibre a concept and design by Wellington sculptor and designer, Guy Ngan.

The commission was for the large centrepiece marble wall beside the main stairwell that led from the ground to first floor. Calvert approached Ngan to design a work that would respond to the Beehive’s architecture and the collaboration produced a huge hanging consisting of six adjacent panels, each 2.4 metres square, in a horizontal T-shape. It was the largest project Calvert had ever undertaken.

Bursting with colour, the woollen wall-hanging was intended to evoke the experience of walking through native bush and looking up through a canopy of trees to be dazzled the sunlight filtering down. Circular gaps within the panels exposed the Carrara marble of the wall behind.

The design perfectly addressed its subject, while taking into consideration the site restrictions. The hanging while needing to be of a large-scale could not be heavy and needed to fit the curve of the marble surface of the central wall. As a result, Forest in the Sun is in six parts, suspended from narrow, flat aluminium bars that bend to hug the curving wall. The cell-like holes help to meet the weight requirements while referencing the organic matter and sunlight. Other considerations included the need for the yarns to be colourfast and durable. For Joan Calvert there was an additional responsibility, proving the validity of weaving as an art form.

The piece took 18 months to make. The process included the design and scale drawing, yarn dying, knotting and hanging. With the scale of the work, Calvert enlisted the help of two other weavers, Dorothea Turner and Jean Ngan, who both undertook the labourious process of knotting two panels each over eight months in 1976 to complete the work. In February 1977, the work was hung in readiness for the formal opening of the building.

In 2003, when the Beehive was being refurbished the monumental work was removed and the government donated it to Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.

Milan Mrkusich: Chelsea House, 1960

Artist: Milan Mrkusich
Medium: Glass mosaic
Date: 1960
Original location: Chelsea House, 85 Fort Street, Auckland
Current location: In its original location
Heritage status: None at present however there is an information plaque located next to the work

Milan Mrkusich was commissioned to design a mural for the lobby of Fort Street’s Chelsea Sugar Refinery Building, known as Chelsea House. In 1960, as a response he created a large-scale mosaic mural. Mrkusich’s dynamic mural features an abstract arrangement of blocks of brightly coloured glass mosaic tiles. The full-height mural follows the undulating curve of the interior wall.

The mural was later covered up by an internal false wall. In 2016 Chelsea House was redeveloped and the mural was uncovered. It is now prominently displayed in the building’s foyer and visible from the footpath. The owner has also installed a plaque with information about the artwork and artist in the foyer.