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Icon revisited: One man’s vision

Wellington based architect Roger Walker designed the Centrepoint Arcade tower. PHOTO/SUPPLIED


The magnificent Centrepoint tower, built on the site of Masterton’s Midland Hotel. PHOTO/FILE

Masterton residents who were here in the 1970s and 1980s will remember the Centrepoint Arcade and its corresponding tower as the distinctive, and controversial shopping centre that sat at the corner of Bannister and Queen for 25 years.

Centrepoint was commissioned by an enterprising Wellington developer who wanted to bring arcade shopping to Masterton.

Wellington-based architect Roger Walker was chosen to bring the project to life.

Known for his porthole windows, steep roofs, and bright colours, Walker created something both entirely unique, and completely emblematic of 1970s modernist architecture.

The complex divided opinion from the start.

Many saw the tower in particular as an eyesore, while others loved the bold new centre and its progressive architecture, as well as the panoramic views the tower’s viewing platform provided.

Sadly, vandals took advantage of the free-to-access interior stairwell, and in just a few years it was closed to the public.

In 1980 the site was sold, and then in 1991 was sold again.

Eventually, in 1997, Centrepoint was demolished.

This year, during lockdown, Roger Walker rediscovered his love for painting, and his first commissioned artwork was an ode to the old arcade, titled ‘RIP Centrepoint’.

Walker mused on its demise, and suggested that the demolition of the arcade was a reflection of Masterton’s conservatism at the time.

“It became a bit of a folly, and the site was sold to someone who thought that the tower was silly,” Walker said.

“New Zealand, a young and practical nation, does not embrace follies all that well.”

Reduced to a viewing tower without its view, Centrepoint’s landmark qualities would not save it from the scrapyard.

“It’s a bit sad really,” Walker said.

RIP Centrepoint painting.

“People believe that a building has to be a box to have multiple purposes.”

He described a little building he designed for the Taranaki Wharf in Wellington, distinguished by its triangular aspect.

Initially, it was leased to a union steamship company, but it now belongs to St John, and serves as an emergency ambulance centre.

The St John’s paramedics love the space and perceive the large geometrical windows as “St John’s chameleon eyes looking over the safety of the community”.

Walker offered this as proof that despite the highly stylistic nature of his architecture, any building had the potential to be repurposed.

His painting is similarly stylistic, and the influence of his lifelong passion for architecture is evident in his work.

It was a friend who first encouraged him to paint Centrepoint, and since publishing the prints online, he’s been struck by the response.

“I was really stoked at the memories that people shared with me about this design.

“They were funny and quirky, and probably things they didn’t want their parents to know about.

“I feel very privileged that people have such interesting and fond memories of a building I put my heart into.”

Walker said he was thoroughly enjoying the freedom of painting.

Walker continues to design townhouses but intends to exhibit his now weighty portfolio in early March next year.

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