Pioneering modernist Henry Kulka's life and career tracked in limited-edition monograph

Czech-New Zealand architect Henry Kulka, a man who spread modernist ideals halfway around the world, is celebrated in Giles Reid and Mary Gaudin’s richly illustrated monograph

Bright, modernist home interior, from the book, Henry Kulka by Giles Reid and Mary Gaudin
Sharp House, Henry Kulka
(Image credit: Mary Gaudin)

The story of Henry Kulka unfolds in the 1930s and 1940s, when a global diaspora of architectural talent spread out from Europe across the world, taking with it the ethos and aspirations of socially motivated modernism. While the impact of these architectural émigrés on the culture of the UK and the USA is well documented, many went further afield and are far less familiar. A new monograph is the go-to architecture book for Kulka's journey. 

Henry Kulka Monograph by Giles Reid and Mary Gaudin

Henry Kulka, by Giles Reid and Mary Gaudin

(Image credit: Mary Gaudin)

Open book showing photo of Khuner House, 1929, by Henry Kulka with Adolf Loos

Khuner House, 1929, by Henry Kulka with Adolf Loos

(Image credit: Mary Gaudin)
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The life and work of architect Henry Kulka

The Moravian-born Jewish architect worked alongside one of the titans of proto-modernist thought, Adolf Loos, eventually becoming his practice partner and collaborator. Kulka was one of the driving forces in Loos’ practice, along with his wife, who was the practice manager.

Open pages of Henry Kulka book, showing interior of Halberstam House

Halberstam House, Henry Kulka

(Image credit: Mary Gaudin)

As well as working on the Raumplan Villa for the dancer Josephine Baker, he was almost wholly responsible for the design of the 1929 Khuner house in Austria. Loos died in 1933 and after a few more significant works like the 1934 Villa Kantor, Kulka eventually had to flee persecution in the late 1930s.

Khuner House, 1929, by Henry Kulka with Adolf Loos

Khuner House, 1929, by Henry Kulka with Adolf Loos

(Image credit: Mary Gaudin)

He eventually ended up in New Zealand, where he began a new chapter, adapting his rigorous architecture to the local climate and conditions. Kulka’s craftsmanship is evident in all his works. He was especially focused on wooden interiors and furniture, with built-in cabinetry and panelling, giving a unified interior composition for every room.

Detail photograph of chair inside open book

Halberstam House by Henry Kulka

(Image credit: Mary Gaudin)

With images by Mary Gaudin, a New Zealand photographer living in France, and words by Giles Reid, a New Zealand architect living in England, Henry Kulka builds up a vivid picture of a methodical and rigorous architect who nonetheless imbued his work with warmth and richness. Kulka died in 1971 and, remarkably, Gaudin and Reid’s 400-page monograph is the first book to be devoted to his work. 

Henry Kulka book held open, showing image of Penrose House interior

Penrose House, Henry Kulka

(Image credit: Mary Gaudin)

Henry Kulka, Giles Reid & Mary Gaudin, €52

MaryGaudin.com

GilesReidArchitects.com

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.