Furniture by New Zealand architects

Wooden chair designed by R. A. Lippincott

Swivel chair designed by R. A. Lippincott (1921?). Architecture and Planning Library, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.

Why do architects design chairs? And sideboards, drawing room furniture, or even an altar table and a pulpit?

These questions are explored through furniture drawings from the Architecture Archive on display until mid-September at the Architecture and Planning Library. The drawings range from furniture in the Arts and Crafts style to chair designs by Bruce Rotherham of the Group Architects.

The display also features a swivel chair designed by R. A. Lippincott, most well-known for designing the University’s ClockTower (formerly the Old Arts Building). Lippincott’s designs reflected his integrated approach to architecture as a proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement.

The library is also home to a pulpit and an altar table designed by architect Ernst Plischke, who arrived in New Zealand from Austria with his family in 1939. Already possessing an international reputation as a modern architect, Plischke worked as an architectural draughtsman, then a community town planner for several years at the Department of Housing in Wellington.

Plischke, as part of Plischke and Firth, designed the altar table and pulpit as part of the overall design for the Cashmere Community Centre in Khandallah, Wellington. This was the first time that a multi-purpose building for a Christian community had been designed in New Zealand (Plischke, 1969).

The altar and the pulpit were donated to the then School of Architecture after the building was demolished in the early 1970s. As important examples of New Zealand architectural furniture they have been in the library for all to enjoy since the 1980s. The pulpit had been used to house large map books, and the altar table was used by library staff to sort books on. Recently the table was moved to the front of the library and now displays new books.

Wooden pulpit in library

Cashmere Community Centre pulpit by E. A. Plischke (1952). Architecture and Planning Library, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.

Plischke’s work as an architect and town planner, and the public lectures and publications he produced while in New Zealand, led to his ideas influencing the next generation of New Zealand architects. Read more about Plischke in New Zealand.

Sarah Cox and Caroline Foster-Atkins, Architecture and Planning Library


Gatley, J. (2010). Group Architects: Towards a New Zealand architecture. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press.

Plischke, E. A. (1969). E. A. Plischke on the human aspect in modern architecture. Wein, Austria: Kurt Wedl.

Plischke, E. A. (2004). Ernst Plischke: Modern architecture of the New World: The complete works. Munich: Prestel.

Tyler, L. (2013). Finding furniture with a North American accent in the South Pacific. Newsletter: ICOM’s International Committee for university museums and collections, January, 8-9.