Hirschfeld House

49 Waiapu Road, Kelburn, Wellington

  • Hirschfeld House. October 2011.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: A Dangerfield.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7478 Date Entered 8th December 2000


City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 3 on DP 83493 and Lot 1 on DP 24855

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The Hirschfeld House is of historical significance for the reason that it was designed by an esteemed modernist architect, Ernst Plischke. The house was commissioned by Sigmund Hirschfeld, friend of Plischke, and admirer of Plischke's Lang House design (1948), Hirschfeld was a prominent Wellington businessman, and founder of the plumbing firm Mico Wakefield Ltd.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The Hirschfield House was designed in the post World War II domestic modern style of 1945-1960, Style indicators are:

- Cubiform overall shape

- Overhang for shading in summer, or wide projecting eaves

- Plain, shiplapped or weatherboard cladding

- Large areas of glass

- Timber structural frame

- Open planning to interior spaces

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The Hirschfeld House was designed by Ernst Plischke in 1956 for his friends and fellow Viennese émigrés Gisella and Sigi Hirschfeld. The house was built over a two year period (1956-1958) and the Hirschfeld family then occupied it for the next 40 years. At this point, Gisi Hirschfeld, at 91 years could no longer manage the stairs and sold the


(b) The association o/the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:


None, other than the usual events associated with family life.


Sigi and Gisella Hirschfeld. Sigi Hirschfeld was born in Vienna, Austria and emigrated to New Zealand in 1940.

Sigi and Gisella Hirschfeld met Ernst Plischke in 1940 soon after their arrival, and asked him to design them some European style modem furniture, as there was nothing available in New Zealand at the time. The Hirschfeld's lived in a rented flat, and used the money they had to build up a successful plumbing business - Mico Wakefield Ltd.

Whilst the Hirschfeld's did not have the money to undertake a house purchase, they enjoyed home making with Plischke's designed furniture. They lived in the rented flat for eighteen years whilst they built up the business.


The Hirschfeld House is, like the Plischke's Lang House design, of outstanding architectural significance. It is a well known example of mid-century modern domestic architecture in New Zealand. It was published in Plischke's own book 'Vom lvfenschlichen im Nuen Bauen' (On the Human Aspect in Modern Architecture), Wein,

Munchen, Verlag, Kurt Wedl, 1969.

The Hirschfeld House was more consistent with international modernism than it was with a search for a New Zealand modernism that pre-occupied many New Zealand architects of the day. Plischke was keen to differentiate himself from any ideological nationalist spirit and in his own books he chose to omit those of his buildings which might have

been seen to conform with a "New Zealand modernism" in favour of those with an international ethic.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design o/the place:

DATE: Designed 1956. Built 1956-1958

ARCHITECT: Ernst Plischke (1903-1992)

STYLE CODE:83: Post War Modern Domestic, 1945-1960


The Hirschfeld House is a modem house with a flat roof, open living spaces and careful attention to indoor-outdoor living. The house is timber frame clad with weatherboards, and is consistent with the aesthetics of international modernism than a search for a "New

Zealand modernism" that pre-occupied many architects of the time.

The interior space planning follows the 'open plan' ethic, and creates multifunctional spaces with a partition that separates the lounge and dining spaces if desired. Like the Lang House, the Hirschfeld House has a large glass display cupboard visually linking the stairwell to the lounge and the garden view beyond.

Contributing to the aesthetic of a light spatial volume are shiatsu Japanese style screens to control the light quality to the living spaces.

Inbuilt robes in all three bedrooms account for maximum space saving. The house has two bedrooms on the living level and one at the entry level. Planning in the bedroom wing is tight, but functional, with not waste spaces. A dressing room adjacent to the master bedroom was an innovation.

The garden was designed by Plischke's wife Anna. It integrates the house and garden into the site so the house appears to be part of the garden itself.

(m) Such additional criteria not inconsistent with those in paragraphs (a) to (k):

In terms of registered comparative examples, the national register has three listed modern houses, the Plischke Houses in Christchurch - 1940, built for Otto Frankel and Margaret Anderson (Category II), the Plischke House for Henry Lang - 1948 (Category I) in Wellington, and the Vernon Brown House in Auckland in 1940 (Category I). The significant gap in modernist buildings is not particularly helpful when comparing the broad range of domestic architecture that can exemplify both International Modern and the search for a New Zealand modern vernacular.

A comparison of the Hirschfeld House with unlisted modernist designs, such as the Kahn House at Ngaio (Plischke, 1941) and the Sutch House (Plischke, 1953) shows that all these designs are concerned with an expression of lightness and transparency, expressed through innovative structure.

Plischke's concern was not with a developing a New Zealand modernism, but with the planning concepts of not designating internal spaces according to a specific purpose - there was rarely a formal dining area; kitchens and bathrooms were invariably very small and built in furniture predominated.

In contrast, Plischke's modernist New Zealand contemporaries had the specific concern of planning for the average New Zealand family. Interior spaces were specifically and formally designated, usually in the form of three bedrooms, kitchen, living room with dining area, and possibly a rumpus room. These architects, such as Paul Pascoe, Cedric

Firth, Vernon Brown, and others were working towards a type a house that eventually became a standard for some types of state house in the 1950's.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Plischke, Ernst Anton

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1956 -

Completion Date

1st October 2000

Report Written By

S. Arden

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Central region office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.