Tibor Donner + the Auckland City Architects office.
Set up in 1946 after Tib Donner became Chief Architect. The office would be hugely influential and employ many of the creative talents from the era (George Kenny, E Wainscott, Jack Manning, Sandy Mill, Noel Bierre to name but a few…)
In the 30 years after the Second World War, the city of Auckland would like many others around the world, grow at an almost unprecedented rate, with the return of the armed forces and an annual 4 % rise in the counties GDP. Governmental planning for peacetime growth had begun earlier during the war years by both Labour and National, with the construction of the Berhampore and Dixon Street flats in Wellington, state housing, bridge and highway building, the Greys Avenue flats in Auckland, and later massive Hydro schemes in the North and South Islands.
The major cities in the country were still predominately colonial and Victorian structures, with multitudes of alleyways and shanty buildings between the brick edifices to profiteering and business. Parts of Auckland’s downtown area were un-permitted wooden structures of questionable structural integrity, while many of the artieral roads between cities were still largely unsealed until the 1950’s. It was against this background that the modern movement started to become relevant. Earlier incarnations during the 1920’s and 30’s had made some inroads at a policy level, with the Labour Governments education and housing Acts bringing about change such as the Grey’s Avenue housing scheme and the introduction of Beeby’s education reforms but significant change had yet to filter through to local councils, although many were filled with Labour supporters.
Several contentious issues would create a time of controversy and change around which the forces of modernism and citizens rights would arise.. (Browns Island, Freemans Bay slums, Westhaven Marina..)
Born 1907 in what is now Serbia, Tibor (‘Tib’ or ‘Tibby’ to friends) came to New Zealand in 1927 at the insistence of his anglophile father. Donner’s talents had been evident early on in life and while studying architecture at the Auckland University College he was awarded a number of prizes before gaining his degree and working in private practice. In 1938 he joined the Government’s Public Works Department, which would later become the Ministry of Works, designing and building schools, Post Offices and a plethora of ministry buildings.
Having won the competition (with Anthony Bartlett) to design the Seddon Memorial in 1941, Tibor used his portion of the prize money to buy a hillside section in Kohu Road Titirangi, where over the coming years he would build his own unique house. He also designed a number of other houses for clients and friends on the Titirangi hills (Rangawai Rd, Park Rd, Schubert house- Piha, etc). In 1946 he took up the newly created position of Chief Architect at the Auckland City Council, causing some controversy initially…
to be continued…