Tibor Karoly Donner was born in Szabadka, Hungary, on 19 September 1907. He was the second child of Ladislaus Cornel Donner, an engineer, and Maria Donner nee Kovats de Dalnok. He and his brother Cornel were brought up in the Lutheran faith of their father, and his sister Klara in the mother's Roman Catholic faith.
The family immigrated to New Zealand in 1927 aboard the Rimutaka. Donner studied architecture at Auckland University College and from 1935 until 1937 worked privately in the profession. In 1938 he joined the Public Works Department. He remained with the department until 1947 when he established the architectural office at the Auckland City Council. He was the council's Chief Architect until his retirement in 1967.
Donner's designs incorporated styles from North and South America which were often reflective of 'high modernism'. Although they were influenced by international architectural trends, their usage of local materials also gave them a distinctly New Zealand flavour. Notable structures by Donner include Auckland's Savage Memorial (1941), Avondale Military Hospital - later converted into the high school (1943), Khyber pump station (1947), Parnell Baths (1951-54) and the Auckland City Council's Administration Buildings (1954-60). They reflect the confidence of Auckland during its rapid expansion in the postwar era.
Donner married Margaret Bennett in 1934. The couple had one child, a daughter also called Margaret. Tibor Donner died at Auckland on 11 March 1993, survived by his wife and his daughter. His work left an enduring legacy to the people of Auckland.
Adapted from text by Peter Boston, 2001. Includes corrections and extra information provided in July 2010 by Margaret Liley (daughter of Tibor Donner). Thanks also to Robin Skinner for his assistance.
- Guide to Tibor Donner and his buildings (pdf)
- Skinner, Robin 'T.K. Donner - architect', Thesis (BArch), University of Auckland, 1994