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Design Review: Volume 2, Issue 5 (February-March 1950)

Two Houses

page 93

Two Houses

Sometimes I read articles or listen to people discussing the growth of an “indigenous” New Zealand style for houses, saying that it should be fostered and strongly supported. But I never know quite what to think—I feel uneasy and wonder what is really meant by it. In the back of my mind I cannot forget how this word “indigenous” has been misused by reactionaries all over the world. On the other hand I am fully aware of the core of truth in it and the importance of the problem. The Oxford Dictionary defines indigenous as “native, belonging naturally.”

The determining factors in this sense are, for instance, local prevalence of particular building materials, resulting in particular ways of construction and social and economic conditions. The fulfilment of these requirements is a condition for any good design. But it would be misleading to assume that this alone would result in a modern New Zealand style. Before we go further I think it may be wise to define what we mean by the word “style”. There is much to say in favour of the use of the term “style” for any attitude of the designer that can be seen in an object conceived by him. It is this mental attitude and taste, mirrored in the object, which makes the style. That is the reason why a brick house in England and a timber residence in New Zealand can still have the same style and atmosphere. That applies for the 'nineties, for instance, as much as for today. Altogether I think the style of the 'nineties was as international as modern architecture.

To illustrate this point on contemporary buildings, two houses are shown on these pages. One of them I have built in Wellington and the other long before I decided to come to New Zealand. It stands in the Austrian Alps on the shore of a lake near Salzburg, where there is much snow and ice in winter. The construction is timber, the outside cement plaster, inside plywood and plaster. Floor and walls are heavily insulated against the cold and all glass double in double sashes and double doors. The climate of the Alps provided much greater obstacles, which had to be overcome in order to realise, by actual construction suiting the climate, the conception of openness and lightness, which I tried to achieve in both houses. Although the climate and other local conditions had of course to be taken into account, certainly the conception of space and form and the attitude towards construction was the primary fact.

page 94
House near Salzburg designed by E. A. Plishke

Architect E. A. Plishke

House near Salzburg designed by E. A. Plishke

House near Salzburg

Photographs J. Voglmayr

page 95
House in Wellington designed by E. A. Plishke

House in Wellington

House in Wellington designed by E. A. Plishke

Photographs Irene Koppel