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.

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: 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.