Michael Fowler

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Sir Michael Fowler
Michael Fowler, 1965.jpg
28th Mayor of Wellington
In office
Deputy Ian Lawrence
Preceded by Frank Kitts
Succeeded by Ian Lawrence
Personal details
Born 19 December 1929
Marton, New Zealand
Political party National
Spouse(s) Barbara Hamilton Hall
Alma mater University of Auckland
Profession Architect

Sir Edward Michael Coulson Fowler (born 19 December 1929) is a New Zealand architect and author who served as Mayor of Wellington from 1974 to 1983.

Early life and family[edit]

Fowler was born in 1929 in Marton,[1] the son of William Coulson Fowler and Faith Agnes Netherclift. He was educated at Manchester Street School in Feilding[1] and Christ's College in Christchurch, and completed a Master of Architecture at The University of Auckland.[2]

In 1953 he married Barbara Hamilton Hall (died 2009).

Architectural career[edit]

Fowler started his career in 1954 at the London office of Ove Arup and Partner. In 1957 he returned to New Zealand where he worked in his own practice: Calder, Fowler, Styles and Turner in Wellington. In the early 1960s, Fowler designed Wellington's Overseas Passenger Terminal, which was to have served international passenger ships, but never saw its intended use due to the rising popularity of air travel.[1][3] In an interview many years later, he said that he "was party to the design of the biggest white elephant that Wellington ever built."[2]

He is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Political career[edit]

Michael Fowler Centre

Fowler was first elected to the Wellington City Council in 1968.[4] Four years later he stood for the parliamentary seat of Hutt in the 1972 general election for the National Party where he came runner up to Labour's Trevor Young.[5]

Fowler was elected Mayor of Wellington in 1974, in a very tight race with long serving incumbent Frank Kitts, a post that he held until he retired in 1983.[2][3] His 1977 re-election campaign was against local transgender entertainer Carmen Rupe, who ran with the support of local businessman Bob Jones, with the slogans "Get in behind" and "Carmen for Mayor" and a platform of gay marriage and legalised brothels (although neither of these are local-government matters in New Zealand).[6]

Fowler was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 1981 Queen's Birthday Honours.[7]

Wellington's principal concert performance hall, the Michael Fowler Centre, opened in 1983, was named in his honour.[8]


Fowler was criticised for his comments in May 2011 where he backed a controversial Wellywood sign in a handwritten letter to The Dominion Post, describing its critics as "dumb, humourless, totally irrelevant and probably Irish". When later questioned, he was unapologetic stating that his comment "wasn't meant to be derogatory." Irish residents in New Zealand expressed outrage at the comments.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Horsley, Emma (2 July 2012). "Sir Michael returns to his home town for art show". Manawatu Standard. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Nichols, Lane (24 August 2010). "Fowler's back looking for a council job". www.stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Romanos, Joseph (28 May 2009). "The Wellingtonian interview: Sir Michael Fowler". The Wellingtonian. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Betts 1970, pp. 260.
  5. ^ Norton 1988, p. 252.
  6. ^ "GayNZ.com 6.25am: Carmen Rupe, legend, dies in Sydney". gaynz.com. 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 6.25am: Transgender goddess and glbt community icon Carmen Rupe has died in Sydney, aged 75, from kidney failure following months of poor health. 
  7. ^ London Gazette (supplement), No. 48641, 13 June 1981. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  8. ^ Michael Fowler Centre history. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  9. ^ Easton, Paul (24 May 2011). "Fowler unapologetic about Irish outburst". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 

External links[edit]


  • Betts, G.M. (1970). Betts on Wellington: A City and its Politics. Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed Ltd. ISBN 0 589 00469 7. 
  • Norton, Clifford (1988). New Zealand Parliamentary Election Results 1946–1987: Occasional Publications No 1, Department of Political Science. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington. ISBN 0-475-11200-8. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Frank Kitts
Mayor of Wellington
Succeeded by
Ian Lawrence