Modernist Marvels: The Architectural Movement of 20th Century New Zealand

New Zealand HomeNew Zealand enjoyed a proliferation of modernist architecture in the period between the 1930’s and 1970’s, despite being tucked into a corner of the world. This popular movement, originating from 1920’s Europe, sailed across the ocean via immigrants during World War II and was swiftly embraced by New Zealand architects and designers.

Less Form, More Function

Modernism foregoes decorative frills, emphasising functional elements with its minimalist design to reflect the push for informal lifestyles. Homes crafted in this style sported open-plan living areas and kitchens, with walls installed almost exclusively as perimeter protection rather than dividing house sections.

Painstaking details are apparent in the careful exterior and interior design. Ackworth House notes that the architectural staircases, floor-to-ceiling windows, and patios all follow a streamlined and harmonious layout. By the 1950s, however, Pan-Pacific architectural influences manifested in the form of pottery and weaving, which coexisted with other design elements such as woven mats and bamboo screens in modernist homes.

A Snapshot in Time

Mary Gaudin, a noted Montpellier-based photographer, revels in the rich historical details and materials of early modernist homes, which she described in her new book. In it, Gaudin revisited 14 homes that carried signature modernist elements, including the Lang House designed by Ernst Plischke in the 1950’s and John Scott’s 1970’s masterpieces.

The book featured all the modernist flourishes of their respective time periods, providing insightful peeks at their bright and sleek designs. The interiors all show signs of use and wear, giving off an authentic lived-in feel that perfectly captured the design intent of the time – a functional lifestyle.

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Modern architecture arose in the aftermath of World War II, driven by a purpose built out of glass, steel, and concrete. It was an effort to break traditions in pursuit of something new and refreshing, a way of living that continuously looks to the future for inspiration.