Building name: Manawatu Polytechnic
Address: 87-157 King Street
Construction date: 1909
Architect: Frederick de Jersey Clere
Architectural style: Edwardian Free Style
District Plan Category: 2
Building number: 55
Heritage NZ Category: Nil
This building was erected as Palmerston North's first technical school. Technical classes began in 1902, in the Presbyterian Hall, but virtually lapsed due to falling numbers. Revived in 1906 they were placed under the High Schools Board and administered by a Technical School Committee. In 1909, under school director FD Opie funds were raised for the college's own premises and in September of that year the Palmerston North Technical College opened. The building was greatly altered prior to 1933, (and presumably after the Napier earthquake of 1931), when the building's gables and associated embellishments were removed for safety reasons. In 1955 a new technical college, Queen Elizabeth College, was built in Rangitikei Street and the old buildings taken over by the Palmerston North Teacher's College. In 1971, with the Teacher's College having moved to new buildings in Hokowhitu, the Polytechnic, as it was now known, took back possession of its former buildings and resumed some of its classes there. Lately the Polytechnic has run its design classes there.
The building is designed in the Edwardian Free Style with references to Classicism in the pilasters, capitals, and rusticated quoins to the comers of the building. The Queen Anne gables have been removed but the overall forms of the building and roofs, and cupola, retain some of the characteristics of the style. The overall plan is an 'L' shape with the main blocks parallel with the streets; an interior courtyard faces west. The main entrance and stair block are located in the tail of the 'L', with the classrooms at right angles. A corridor is adjacent to the courtyard. The interior stair detailing and leadlight window above the stair landing are typical of the period.
Clere was born in Lancashire, the son of an Anglican clergyman, and was articled to Edmund Scott, an ecclesiastical architect of Brighton. He then became chief assistant to EJ Withers, a London architect and a follower of the Ecclesiologists. Clere came to New Zealand in 1877, practising first in Fielding and then in Wanganui. He later came to Wellington and practised there for 58 years. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1886 and held office for 50 years as one of four honorary secretaries in the Empire. In 1883 he was appointed Diocesan Architect of the Anglican Church. Clere was a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction, and his Church of St Mary of the Virgin, Karori (1911), is an early example. His Church of St Mary of the Angels (1922), however, is the most outstanding example. As well as being preeminent in church design, Clere was responsible for many domestic and commercial buildings including the Harbour Board Offices and Bond Store, Wellington (189?). Clere was also involved in the design of large woolsheds in Hawkes bay and Wairarapa. He was active in the formation of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and served on their council for many years. He was a member of the Wellington Diocesan Synod and the General Synod. He was also a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.
Summary of Heritage Values
The building is associated with the staff and students of the Polytech, and a significant architect of the period.
This large scale building was designed by a significant architect in a period style popular for public buildings which is well planned and takes advantage of the site, which, because of its scale and design, contributes to the streetscape.
The building has a reduced level of authenticity, but is a good representative example of the style and building type of the period.
The building has economic, functional, educational, and sociaI values.
Statement of Significance
This building's particular significance lies in its close relationship with the history of technical education in the Manawatu. Built to house the technical college almost from its inception it has had continuous involvement with some form of education ever since. Appropriately it has reverted to use by the Polytechnic in recent years after some time in the hands of the Palmerston North Teacher's College. The building was designed by one of New Zealand's leading architects of the period and is a good representative example of a style of the period.
NZHPT Manawatu District Committee Files
Manawatu Polytechnic 1991, History of the Manawatu Polytechnic, MP, PN
NZHPT Register of Architects
Billens RH and HL Verry (Comp) 1937, From Swamp to City, PN,