Step inside the reinvigorated home designed by the modernist architect Franz Iseke in 1971 for Thames’ chief surgeon
Q&A with Greg Smith of Lost Property, lostproperty.org.nz.
Who was Franz Iseke (the original architect of this home) and what elements characterised his work?
Iseke was born in Shanghai in 1926 and gained his diploma in architecture at Munich University, before studying at Harvard. It seems Franz spent a little time in the US before setting out for Australia where he met his wife-to-be, Patricia, a gifted seamstress. Shortly after their marriage and arrival in New Zealand, he joined Thorpe, Cutter, Pickmere & Douglas, prior to starting his own practice in the late 1950s and designing a number of stunning steel and concrete Bauhaus-influenced houses – the earliest with steel outriggers supporting a minimal pitch or flat roof.
He seems to have been best known for designing commercial buildings. How extensive was his residential practice?
Franz’s structural knowledge and design ability meant he quickly became involved in large-scale building for the government and commercial developers, although throughout his career in New Zealand he also designed a large number of residences – they probably number in the hundreds. Some, like the Lane house in this story or those in Meadowbank’s Dover Place in Auckland, were expensive builds, but many were smaller, always well-sited single-storey houses or units, usually in concrete block with flat roofs.
What do you like best about the home on these pages?
The Lane house in Thames is both a wonderful example of Franz’s astute handling of site, planning and materials. It has warmth and spaciousness, and a great flow and ease of movement between rooms and levels, while also offering areas of seclusion and intimacy. The craftsmanship and detailing apparent even in the expansive decks and large glass doors and windows all contribute to the house’s sense of being generous but not excessive; one is very much ‘open’ to the elements but also securely embraced by the structure.
Words by: Jeremy Hansen. Photos by: Toaki Okano.