PRUDENTIAL ASSURANCE BUILDING
332-340 Lambton Quay
& Henessey Date of
(Australia) /Gray, Young,
Morton & Young (New
Architectural Style: Art
Deco. Building Type/Use:
Compilation Date: March
1994. Photo Negative:
District Plan: Map
17, reference 190/3. Condition:
concrete, sandstone exterior facing, bronze touch holders, terrazzo
Wellington's Prudential Assurance Building, designed
in 1933 by Australian firm Hennessy and Hennessy, is one of the
country's most flamboyant works in the Art Deco style. The original
scheme for the development was a group of three blocks marching
up Plimmer Steps, but only one block was ever built. This block
had recesses in its side walls to provide light and air shafts
when it was joined by neighbouring tall buildings. Its pink tones,
wall scoring, jagged skyline and small windows all help to provide
an appearance of distinction. (3)
The Prudential Assurance Building was one of the
first steelframed structures to be erected in Wellington
following the introduction of the new earthquake code. In fact,
these new codes, introduced as construction was about to proceed,
led to a structural redesign carried out in conjunction with the
Wellington firm representing the Australian architects. (1)
The Prudential Assurance building is a significant
building of the inter-war period, designed in an Art Deco style.
Along with the 1930's buildings to its sides, it forms a small
but important precinct of inter-war commercial buildings that
make a considerable contribution to the urban fabric of the central
city. The building is intimately associated with the staff, management
and clients of Prudential Assurance.
Gray Young was born in Oamaru. When he was a child
his family moved to Wellington, where he was educated. After leaving
school he was articled to the Wellington architectural firm of
Crichton and McKay. In 1906 he won a competition for the design
of Knox College, Dunedin, and shortly after this he commenced
practice on his own account.
He became a prominent New Zealand architect and during
his career of 60 years he designed over 500 buildings. His major
buildings include the Wellington and Christchurch railway stations
(1936 and 1954 respectively), Scot's College (1919), Phoenix Assurance
Building (1930), and the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP)
Chambers (1950). At Victoria University he was responsible for
the Stout (1930), Kirk (1938), and Easterfield (1957) Buildings,
and Weir House (1930). Gray Young also achieved recognition for
his domestic work such as the Elliott House, Wellington (1913).
His design for the Wellesley Club (1925) earned him
the Gold Medal of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1932.
He was elected a Fellow of the Institute in 1913, serving on the
executive committee from 1914-1935 and was president from 1935-36.
He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British
Architects, and achieved prominence in public affairs. (4)
The Prudential is a highly distinctive building,
with a symmetrical and compact layout, and a threedimensional
composition. In many ways it is a representative Art Deco building,
blending a number of stylistic motifs into a crisp and bold design.
The building echoes, but does not imitate, the Medieval Keep,
the Norman tower and, in the ground and first floors, something
of the massive trabeation of Egyptian forms. The architects, Hennessy
& Hennessy, were notable practitioners of the Art Deco idiom,
and the Prudential Building is similar, in its exterior massing
and detail, to the ACA Building, Queen Street, Melbourne (1936)
also designed by this firm.
Distinctive features of Art Deco architecture are
represented in the facades of the Prudential, particularly the
system of emphatic vertical piers and fins which terminate in
a stepped skyline, with a crenellated parapet and centre piece.
These stronglymodelled vertical elements give the building
a soaring quality a typical Art Deco effect. The monumental
central entrance, rising to a piano storey, is another characteristic
of Art Deco architecture. So too, is the stylised lettering on
the lower entablature, and the stylised lowrelief ornament
featuring corner eagles and other company emblems and regalia.
The terminating piers of the building, and the spandrels below
the topfloor windows, feature a typical Deco parallel line
motif; spandrels between the piers feature a chevron pattern.
The building is faced with sandstone on all the external
facades. There are bronze torchholders by the entrance,
and bronze decorations within the spandrels of the piano floor.
The central entrance leads to a main office hall, two stories
high, with terrazzo panels and frieze, and fluted pillars. The
loadbearing system of the building is constructed in cast
insitu reinforced concrete including footings, basement
floor and walls, external and internal walls, and the grid of
columns and beams. Interior partitions have been constructed of
SUMMARY OF HERITAGE VALUES
The building is associated with a significant early New Zealand
insurance company which played an important role in the economic
development of the country.
The building reflects the period in which it was constructed,
and enhances the small but significant group of 1930's office
buildings of south Lambton Quay.
The building retains functional and economic use values.
The building is a good representative example of an inter-war
Level of Authenticity:
The building retains external authenticity of materials, design
Statement of Significance:
The building makes a significant contribution to a rare surviving
small pocket of inter-war buildings designed in an appropriate
style for the period.
C & D Listed Buildings.
District Committee files.
Zealand Architecture, Peter Shaw.
Glossary of Architects, 1991.