The early works of Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, 1850-1865
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Auckland
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This study of the early work of Benjamin Mountfort is concerned with establishing the facts relating to Mountfort’s career as an architect, and with analysing the buildings which he designed during his first fifteen years in New Zealand. The main source of information has been documentary material relating to Mountfort’s buildings and to his views on architecture. The buildings themselves and Mountfort’s plans and drawings form the other major source. The first two chapters deal with Mountfort’s life and architectural principles. They contain discussion of his early training and influences; his reasons for emigrating to New Zealand and his subsequent activities in this country; his knowledge of the architectural theory of the Gothic Revival; his interest in medieval history and the social and religious reforms of the 19th century. The next three chapters deal with the buildings and explore the relationship of his church designs to the ideas of the Ecclesiologists; the expression of natural forces and forms in the structure and composition of his buildings; their reaction against classical notions of symmetry, proportion and beauty; the influence of the ideas of Pugin, Ruskin and Downing; and the development of a new approach to domestic design which foreshadows the English "Domestic Revival". The analysis of the buildings also deals with his use of local materials and his adaptation of forms derived from English architecture to New Zealand conditions. Mountfort emerges as an individual and original architect whose works were influenced by his religious views and his Romantic response to nature, and who established in New Zealand the architectural forms and ethical principles of the High Victorian Movement.