Architect of empire: Joseph Fearis Munnings (1879-1937)
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
New Zealand-born architect Joseph Fearis Munnings (1879-1937) is largely forgotten in the country of his birth. Considering the importance of his public works in Bihar and Orissa, India (1912-1919) and his prominence as a school architect in New South Wales, Australia (1923-1937), recognition of his architectural achievements is long overdue. This thesis takes as its premise the notion that early twentieth century architecture in colonial New Zealand, India and Australia was British, the rationale expounded by G. A. Bremner in Imperial Gothic– Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire (2013). My thesis argues that, considering Munnings’ colonial upbringing and English training, the styles he employed reflected his and his clients’ identity as British. It explores the extent to which Munnings adapted British styles, by incorporating features appropriate for colonial conditions. Drawing upon the work of Ian Lochhead on the achievements of Samuel Hurst Seager, my thesis considers the role played by Seager in mentoring Munnings and guiding his philosophy of architecture. Peter Scriver’s papers, ‘Edge of empire or edge of Asia’ (2009) and ‘Complicity and Contradiction in the Office of the Consulting Architect to the Government of India, 1903-1921’ (1996), also inform my analysis of Munnings’ work in India. To enable an analysis of Munnings’ work, this study divides his career into chronological stages: Early experiences and training, Christchurch, New Zealand, 1879-1903 Architectural training, London, England, 1903-1906 Partnership with Hurst Seager and Cecil Wood, Christchurch, 1906-1909 Work with Leonard Stokes, London, 1909 Responsibilities and achievements, India, 1910-1918 Contributions and achievements, New Zealand, 1919-1923 Partnership with Power and Adam, Sydney, Australia, 1923-1937. This thesis, the first comprehensive study of Munnings’ career, illuminates the extent of his architectural legacy in India, his significant contribution to school architecture in New South Wales, and asserts his place as an architect of the British Empire.
SubjectsNew Zealand Architecture
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