Dezeen Magazine

Halberstam House by Henry Kulka

Six buildings by little-known mid-century architect Henry Kulka

With the launch of a book profiling mid-century Czech architect Henry Kulka, authors Mary Gaudin and Giles Reid reveal photographs of six of his key buildings.

Simply titled Henry Kulka, the book is the first to ever be published on the mid-century architect, who might have been more famous if his career hadn't been divided across two continents.

Kulka was born in 1900. He studied and worked with influential modernist architect Adolf Loos in the early 19th century, but as a Jewish architect, he fled Europe for New Zealand at the start of the second world war.

He spent 30 years producing architecture abroad, where his former profile was largely unknown.

"New Zealand, despite having a lively architectural culture, is far from the traditional centres of architecture in Europe and America," author Reid told Dezeen.

"Arguably, Kulka's architecture did not attract the attention it would have done if he had returned to Europe after the war to resume his career," Reid continued.

New Zealand-born architect Reid and photographer Gaudin have self-published the book, hoping to promote a greater understanding of the value of Kulka's remaining buildings.

"As New Zealanders living in Europe, we felt uniquely placed to discover his work on both sides of the world," Reid said.

Henry Kulka features 254 photographs of six key Kulka projects that are still standing, along with plans and sections.

In a Dezeen exclusive, Gaudin has picked her favourite image of each project and written accompanying captions:

Landhaus Khuner by Adolf Loos and Henry Kulka

Landhaus Khuner
Kreuzberg, Austria, 1929-30

"Landhaus Khuner has been a hotel since the 1950s and was designed by Adolf Loos, although Kulka is credited as co-author.

"After a week of snow, we arrived to blue skies, which made photographing the exterior of this beautiful wooden building exceptional."

Apartment Semler by Adolf Loos and Henry Kulka

Apartment Semler
Pilsen, Czechia, 1932-34

"The luxurious interiors of the Apartment Semler were astonishing.

"When we visited in 2019, the building had started to be restored by the Gallery of West Bohemia. It was fascinating to wander around it in a state of transition, with many of the original details still there."

Villa Kantor by Henry Kulka

Villa Kantor
Jablonec nad Nisou, Czechia, 1933-34

"Villa Kantor was another building on the path to restoration when we visited.

"I especially enjoyed photographing the empty spaces where the bones of the house were still in evidence."

Penrose House by Henry Kulka

Penrose House
Auckland, New Zealand, 1943

"Kulka worked for Fletcher Construction from 1940 to 1960, and in 1943 he was given the task of altering the Fletcher family home.

"His various interventions included stone fireplaces, a superbly sober addition to a colonial New Zealand building."

Halberstam House by Henry Kulka

Halberstam House
Wellington, New Zealand, 1948

"This house is in perfect condition and survives intact after the original owners sold the house to a young couple a few years ago.

"After seeing the armchairs in Landhaus Khuner, it was a nice touch to see a similar design here."

Sharp House by Henry Kulka

Sharp House
Auckland, New Zealand, 1964

"This is an open and light wooden house, recently brought by sympathetic owners.

"Less constrained than the earlier European houses, it is the Kulka house that I would most like to live in."