Page 1: Biography
Pascoe, Arnold Paul
This biography, written by Ana Robertson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000. It was updated in June, 2012.
Arnold Paul Pascoe (registered at birth as Edward Arnold, but always known as Paul) was born at Christchurch on 26 September 1908. He was the younger of twin sons of Guy Dobrée Pascoe, a solicitor, and his wife, Effie Denham. Following schooling at Sumner and Christ’s College, Paul commenced architectural training in 1927. He was articled to the successful Christchurch architect Cecil Wood and from 1928 to 1933 completed papers for an associateship with the New Zealand Institute of Architects at Canterbury College.
By the early 1930s Pascoe’s designs showed the influence of the modernist movement. He did not, however, gain first-hand experience of the style until he travelled to England in February 1934. There he worked initially as an assistant to the New Zealand architect Brian O’Rorke. Later he worked at the Architectural Press, where he learned up-to-date presentation skills and saw the importance of publishing modernist principles, and also worked for the Tecton group, pioneers of modern design in Britain. The ideas he encountered in these years had a pronounced effect on Pascoe’s career.
After returning to Christchurch Pascoe began a brief partnership with Cecil Wood in 1937. By December 1938, however, he had entered practice on his own account. On 30 November 1940 he married Annette Rochfort Sellars at Christchurch; they were to have three sons. The Second World War curtailed modern design projects and Pascoe was forced to develop broader architectural interests. Paul’s twin, John Dobrée Pascoe, was illustrations editor of the Making New Zealand series celebrating New Zealand’s centennial, and Paul contributed articles to the publication. He also worked as advisory architect to the National Centennial Council and did some teaching.
Towards the end of the war Pascoe was joined in practice by Humphrey Hall. The partners became prominent in Canterbury for their domestic designs, and their preference for translating and adapting modern international ideas to suit New Zealand conditions brought Pascoe and Hall a reputation as one of the foremost modern architectural firms in the country. Houses were carefully planned, modest, and portrayed qualities in tune with the local environment, New Zealand’s architectural history and local building materials. Some, such as the Harris house, Dunedin, the Barrett house, Christchurch, and Pascoe’s own house at Sumner, all designed in the 1940s, mimicked the simplicity of early colonial homes. They incorporated open verandas, compact planning, low-pitched roofs supported by wide-spaced posts, overhanging eaves with heavy fascias, large window expanses, a coarseness of detail and an overall simplicity.
Pascoe and Hall designed over a hundred residential and commercial buildings during their decade-long partnership: examples of their business work included the canteen and offices for Andersons Limited, Christchurch, the Kaikoura County Council offices, and the Caxton Press building, Christchurch. They also wrote several architectural articles, such as ‘The modern house ’ , which appeared in the June 1947 issue of Landfall , and represented the architectural community on bodies like the 1950 Canterbury Centennial Historical and Literary Committee.
In 1955 Pascoe again chose to practise alone. Soon after, he was commissioned to design new terminal buildings at Christchurch International Airport. His plan drew on overseas designs and on work he had undertaken at the Tecton office 20 years earlier. The building was well received by the public and by architects: 30,000 people visited it within a month of opening, and in 1960 the New Zealand Institute of Architects awarded Pascoe their gold medal for this work.
In 1963 Pascoe formed a partnership with Walter Linton. While it was largely known for its domestic work, in 1967 the firm was appointed to work with Wellington City Corporation architects on the design of a new airport terminal at Rongotai. In the early 1970s Pascoe designed a third airport building, at Rarotonga.
Pascoe had gained recognition for other designs also. He won a 1942 National Service Department Rehabilitation Division housing competition with eight prefabricated houses at Riccarton, Christchurch. He was also one of five finalists in the 1964 nationwide competition organised by the Christchurch City Council for its new civic offices and town hall. His high profile in Canterbury led to his appointment as architect on several ecclesiastical projects during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He remodelled the chapel at Christ’s College, planned the Christchurch cathedral’s east-end extensions, and designed the new St Chad’s Church, Linwood, and the interdenominational chapel at Arthur’s Pass.
In 1961 Pascoe was elected a fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and the following year a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He was chairman or president of several professional bodies, including the Canterbury Society of Arts, the Canterbury branch of the NZIA, the Design Association of New Zealand and the Christchurch Architectural Association. He was also the New Zealand contributor to the international journals Architectural Review (London) and L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (France).
Pascoe was keenly interested in the study of comparative religion, and was chairman of a new churches research group. He also loved music. Like his twin, who had become a prominent mountaineer, Paul enjoyed tramping and climbing, especially in the Arthur’s Pass and Springfield areas. From the early 1970s Pascoe began doing less architectural work and lived in semi-retirement. He died at his holiday home in Springfield on 11 September 1976, survived by his three sons. His wife had died in 1969. A pioneer of modern architecture in Christchurch and New Zealand, Pascoe’s contribution to building design continued to be recalled in the name of the firm he co-founded with Walter Linton. In 1976 it became known as Pascoe Linton Sellars; Paul’s son Simon had joined the practice in 1969.