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The University of Otago’s grotesques have stared down on pedestrians on campus for more than 100 years. Completed in 1914, the statues each depict a different aspect of academic study.
It is rumoured the grotesques were modelled on academic staff of the time, however, that has never been confirmed.
It is not known who carved the grotesques, but Edmund Anscombe, the university’s architect from about 1909 to 1929, is considered responsible for the unique design elements on the elaborate archway building and was known to have a playful streak that surfaced in his work.
The grotesque carvings are not gargoyles which are drainage ‘‘throats’’ (as in gargle). Gargoyles are specifically waterspouts, often carved as open-mouthed creatures to spill rainwater off buildings.
The archway was built by Fletcher Brothers, who won the tender to build it for a price of £10,292.
Photographer Gerard O’Brien got as close as he dared to the stone carvings in the Union St archway.