This guide will help you to find information in our collections relating to architecture, architects, building construction, private houses, public buildings, whare whakairo, halls, and churches as well as a wealth of published material on New Zealand’s built environment.
Where can I find images of buildings?
Start by searching our website. Useful search terms include the name of a building or street, the name of other prominent buildings nearby, and the name of the architect or of the architectural firm if you know it. If you know the name of an early or prominent owner of the building, then try searching for their name as well. If these searches have been unsuccessful, try a wider search for the suburb or town, which may help you find images of unidentified streets or aerial photographs.
If you are looking for images of an architectural period or building style, then you may need to search more broadly. As well as searching for the name of the period or style, try a wider search (ie “villa”) and filter your results by the relevant time period.
Not all of our images have been digitised. If you are in Wellington, our photographic file prints (filed in drawers) provide access to thousands of images that have not yet been digitised, and other material can be requested via our database for unpublished material, Tiaki, and viewed in the Katherine Mansfield Reading Room. The Dominion Post Collection (PA-Group-00685) is particularly useful if you are looking for buildings from Wellington, especially well-known or public buildings. If you are unable to come to Wellington, get in touch via Ask-a-Librarian, as we may be able to provide you with a copy of the images you wish to see.
Papers Past has some images of prominent buildings built before 1945. If you get too many results when you search, try using the Title filter to limit your results to the relevant region or publication. Note the Magazines & journals section of Paperspast is likely to have more relevant content. Auckland Weekly News and newspapers on microfilm held by the National Library are also useful.
Does the Library hold building plans?
Yes, building plans are part of the Library’s Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection. We have approximately 30,000 individual plans. Most have come to us as large groups from major Wellington architecture firms – please note that plans for government buildings are located at Archives New Zealand. See Archway or contact their staff.
You can search for plans on our website, in the same way as you would search for images. Useful search terms include the name of a building or street, the name of the person or organisation that commissioned the building, and the name of the architect or of the architectural firm. If you want to narrow your search further, try using the terms “plans” and “architectural drawings” or use the filters on the left-hand side of the website to limit by subject, collection or creator.
Building plans are large and often fragile, so they need to be viewed with the assistance of a Curator. If you find a plan you want to look at, request to view it by selecting Request Item in Tiaki and someone will be in touch to arrange a time for you to view. It can take up to two weeks, so please request material ahead of time. (If you are not sure how to request, or you need help setting up an account, have a look at our Registering and requesting page or ask a librarian.)
If a plan has been digitised, the online Request option in Tiaki is not available. If this occurs you can still request access to the physical item via the Ask a Librarian service on the National Library website and a curator will contact you to discuss your request and make an appointment for supervised access if appropriate.
Where can I find books and articles about NZ architecture and architects?
The National Library catalogue and Index New Zealand (our index to articles published in New Zealand after 1987) are great places to start. You can search the Catalogue and Index New Zealand directly or via the website search. Try searching on the name of the building, architect or firm you are interested in or search for a particular subject or building style (ie “Māori architecture” or “New Zealand bungalows”).
Here are some popular book titles to get you started:
- State housing in New Zealand text by Cedric Firth; illustrations selected by Gordon F. Wilson (1949)
- Colonial architecture in New Zealand by John Stacpoole (1977)
- How old is our house? a short guide to the documentary sources and architectural records available in New Zealand by G.J. Griffiths (1979)
- The New Zealand house by Michael Fowler and Robert van de Voort (1983)
- New Zealand architecture: from Polynesian beginnings to 1990 by Peter Shaw; photographs by Robin Morrison (1991)
- Painted histories: early Māori figurative painting by Roger Neich (1993)
- Building the New Zealand dream by Gael Ferguson (1994)
- Looking for the local: architecture and the New Zealand modern by Justine Clark and Paul Walker (2000)
- Carved histories: Rotorua Ngāti Tarawhai woodcarving by Roger Neich (2001)
- New dreamland: writing New Zealand architecture (2005)
- Exquisite apart: 100 years of architecture in New Zealand (2005)
- Māori architecture: from fale to wharenui and beyond by Deidre Brown (2009)
- Group Architects: towards a New Zealand architecture edited by Julia Gatley (2010)
- Raupo to deco: Wellington styles and architects, 1840-1940 by Geoff Mew and Adrian Humphris (2014)
- Beyond the state: New Zealand state houses from modest to modern text by Bill McKay and Andrea Stevens, photography Simon Devitt (2014)
- Marae: te tatau pounamu: a journey around New Zealand's meeting houses Muru, by Robin and Sam Walters (2014)
- The Māori Meeting House: Introducing the Whare Whakairo by Damian Skinner (2016)
When searching Index New Zealand, it is important to remember that you are looking at indexed articles not books or full-text content. To access the article you want, search for the journal it was published in under the Catalogue tab and request to view the relevant issue.
Papers Past contains a great deal of information relating to buildings built before 1945. As well as newspapers, Papers Past contains a number of digitised magazines, including Progress . Progress became New Zealand’s first architectural periodical. Published in Wellington from 1905 to 1924 and heavily illustrated with photos, drawings and plans, it is an essential resource for the study of architecture and building in New Zealand in the early twentieth century.
If you are undertaking biographical research into a particular architect, then you may find our Family History and Whakapapa research guides useful. These go into great detail about how to conduct research into people’s lives.
Do you have information and images relating to marae?
Yes, the Library holds information on marae in a number of places. You can use the advice above to search for marae, and our Whakapapa research guide provides detailed advice on searching for information relating to your whānau, hapū, iwi and marae. Useful keywords include the name of the marae, wharenui or wharekai, or iwi and hapū names. People are often photographed or painted in front of buildings, so it’s a good idea to search for names of people associated with the marae as well. Marae committees often publish reports on the history of their marae – you can locate these by searching on the name of the marae.
The Māori Maps website is a portal to information on some 800 marae across Aotearoa. It provides a nationwide map of all the marae as well as photos of each marae, contact and background information, and whakapapa information such as waka, iwi, hapū, and rohe. This also includes the names of the wharenui and wharekai.
Where can I find information about land and property?
While your local council is the best place to start looking for information on your land and property history, in our collections you may be able to find images of your street, aerial photographs of your neighbourhood, subdivision plans, maps and published histories of your area. Start by searching for your street or address, and expand your search to look for your suburb or town. Note that early information prior to the 1880s may be held by Archives New Zealand.
If you are in Wellington, our Reading Room provides access to the QuickMap database, which lets you search by address to find a variety of historic and present-day property information. Our Family History research guide goes into much more detail about how to trace who has lived in or owned a property.
Key collections and resources
A number of architectural firms have deposited their records with the Library, generally including plans. Search for the name of the firm you are interested in to see what we hold.
The Library holds the records for the Architectural Centre for the period 1946-2006, including manuscripts, photographs, competition and exhibition records.
Includes minute books of the council and various committees, letter books, financial records, rate books, building permit applications and subject files.
This collection comprises files documenting Wellington buildings, architecture and design. This material has been arranged into street files and subject files containing research forms, newspaper cuttings, plans, correspondence, ephemera and printed material. A collection of photographs of Wellington buildings is also available. The research has been compiled over a forty year period (c1961-1999) and includes reference to Wellington buildings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Some oral history projects about architecture, architects and housing are listed below. Each of these projects contains many interviews.
- New Zealand Institute of Architects Oral History Project, OHColl-0413
- Back to the drawing board Hamilton architects oral history project, OHColl-0483
- Early Architectural Centre oral history project, OHColl-0773
- The founding of landscape architecture in New Zealand oral history project, OHColl-0857
If you are working in our Wellington Reading Rooms, then you will have access to several databases and finding aids that are not available online. If you need to access these resources but can’t visit, please contact staff who will do their best to assist you.
- Building Progress – not to be confused with Progress – is a building and trade journal which ran from 1939-1966. While not digitised, it has been fully indexed and can be accessed via a card catalogue in the Reading Rooms.
- QuickMap is a property information database which can be accessed via a stand-alone computer in our General Reading Room. Please ask staff for more information.
- Our file print drawers let you access images that have not been digitised yet, organised by region, town , suburb, and street. They are a great place to look for images of buildings. File prints are also organised by subject – for instance “Architecture” or “Offices”.
- Index New Zealand is online for the period 1987 – today, but earlier indexing is available in bound volumes in the Reading Rooms.
- Newztext (Knowledge Basket) and the Australia New Zealand Reference Centre (Ebsco) are two databases that can be accessed via the computers in our Reading Rooms. They both provide digitised newspaper, journal and magazine content from a range of New Zealand sources. (The former is available at most university libraries and the latter database is available at most public libraries.)
How do I access the Library’s collections?
This guide will help you get started with your architecture research. You can access most of our digital material online, while physical collections are restricted to our Wellington Reading Rooms. If you cannot come into our Wellington Reading Rooms, use the Ask-a-Librarian service to request extra assistance.
Requesting to view non-digitised material
Not all of our collections have been digitised. If you want to request to view material in our Reading Rooms, you will need to sign up for an account in advance. You will need separate accounts to access our published material: the National Library Catalogue and for unpublished material Tiaki. Our Registering and requesting page has more information to help you with this.
Using material from our collections
You are welcome to make or save copies of material from our collections for your personal use or for study. If you want to publish or otherwise share, copyright and donor restrictions may apply. Material is usually out of copyright in New Zealand if its creator has been deceased for more than fifty years. Please use Ask-a-Libraian for more information.
Other places to look for Architecture resources
Digital New Zealand searches for digital content from a number of New Zealand repositories, including the Turnbull and National Libraries, Archives New Zealand and local archives, museums and libraries.
Archives New Zealand holds Public Works Department plans, architectural plans, deeds registers and other information about public buildings (including schools) as well as dead company records for architectural firms.
Council archives: Your local council archive may be able to provide architectural plans and building specifications that are submitted as part of their building consent records. Council archives may also hold relevant council publications, maps and plans. If you are looking for information about a building in Wellington, the Wellington City Council Heritage Inventory is a useful resource. The Community archive a listing of NZ-wide archive holdings can also be worth investigating.
Libraries and Museums: Auckland city libraries have digitised the Auckland Weekly News and made these available in their Heritage Images online database and the George Grey Collection has some architectural plans. Local and large libraries and museums are well worth investigating: The Directory of New Zealand Libraries and the NZ Museums directory can help you find relevant collections.
Universities: Architecture schools at the University of Auckland or Victoria, University of Wellington, have specialist libraries with unique collections. You can also use university libraries to access unpublished theses on architecture – although some of these will be restricted to faculty and students, or to reading on site. The University of Auckland also hosts the INZART Database, which indexes art- (and architecture-) related articles from selected journals and newspapers from 1965 onward, plus an Architecture archive.