Helmore and Cotterill : the formative years
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The aim of this thesis is to examine the works of the important Christchurch architectural partnership of Heathcote George Helmore (1894-1965) and Henry Guy Cotterill (1897-1981). The study begins in 1894, the year of Helmore's birth, and finishes in 1940. This period is of great significance as it provides many answers about Helmore and Cotterill's training, the nature of their partnership, their activity abroad, and their attitudes towards architectural styles. The period is also notable for the quality of work produced. Some of Helmore and Cotterill's most famous buildings were executed in the 1920s and 30s. Although they are primarily remembered as designers of stately homes who worked for a small but wealthy group of clients, they had a very liberal attitude towards questions of style. In addition to such traditional approaches as English Neo-Georgian, American Colonial Revival, and French Colonial, the two architects also incorporated Spanish Mission and the Modern Movement into their repertoire. The partners were often in the forefront of New Zealand architecture when it came to introducing new methods of building design. The thesis is divided into three chapters. The first concentrates on the architects' upbringing and discusses the close parallels in their education. A great deal of attention is devoted to their stay in England during the early 1920s as it forms an important phase of their development. Helmore's correspondence with his family in New Zealand sheds new light on his association with the famous English architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. The second chapter centres on Helmore and Cotterill's return to New Zealand and the establishment of their practice in Christchurch during the 1920s. A prominent feature of this period is their use of American Colonial motifs. They were the first New Zealand architects to promote a form of timber building which drew heavily on eighteenth-century American domestic designs. The final chapter emphasizes the versatility of Helmore and Cotterill's approach and their ability to overcome the uncertainties of the economic depression. The architects and their buildings are placed within the broad context of New Zealand architecture. Comparisons are made between them and their contemporaries, both in New Zealand, Europe, and the United States. Helmore and Cotterill emerge as an architectural firm whose work rank among the best produced during this period in New Zealand and their approach to design is one that is characteristic of this transitional phase of twentieth-century architecture.