Lilburn House: A Modern Residence and Influence

Story by Laura Jamieson

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2018

Simple but striking

Private but not isolated, Lilburn House, as it is now known, is a simple, but striking building, surrounded by well-established trees. The wide, white eaves of the flat roof overhang black weatherboard walls and the timber joinery and trims are picked out in white. The building is off-set by its lush garden environment.

An early example of post-war Modernist architecture, Lilburn House features principles that are key to Modernism, including a concern for privacy, a flat roof, a large living room and integrated dining room. The interior is arranged around a central core of utility spaces with 3 bedrooms and open plan living and dining which connect to the terrace at the northern end. The house also features built-in furniture.

Harmonious living

The house was commissioned by civil servant Richard Gray Collins in 1951. The Collins family lived there for many years, but with a fourth child on the way they decided to sell the house rather than carry out extensions, which they felt would destroy its character. The property was sold to Douglas Lilburn who lived there until the end of his life.

The residence is one of only two houses designed by architect Frederich Schwarzkopf, the other being his own. Schwarzkopf was an Austrian refugee who fled to New Zealand with his wife, after being held in a Nazi concentration camp from 1939-1940. His private commissions were limited by his employment as a structural engineer at the Housing Department, and the short period he lived in New Zealand.

See the Residence

  • <p>Exterior of Lilburn House, 2018.</p>
  • <p>Douglas Lilburn's home, 22 Ascot Terrace, Wellington, 2002.</p>
  • <p>Douglas Lilburn at home at 22 Ascot Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington, 196?.</p>
  • <p>Douglas Lilburn at home, 1970.</p>

Lilburn and his legacy

During Lilburn’s life the house was a gathering point for artists, musicians and composers, who enjoyed his welcoming, open-door approach. The house was also the ideal working environment for Lilburn, a quiet retreat in central Wellington.

Douglas Lilburn was born in 1915, and is a highly regarded New Zealand composer. His pioneering electroacoustic music, and his chamber and orchestral works are still performed and recorded. He is generally considered to be the first composer to base his professional life in New Zealand. In 1984 he established the Lilburn Trust which continues to support New Zealand musicians.

Lilburn died in 2001, the house was sold by his estate and the proceeds went to the Lilburn Trust. The Lilburn Residence Trust was set up with the intention of buying the house and maintaining its connection to the music community which it was able to achieve in 2005. The trust runs a Composer in Residence scheme through the New Zealand School of Music, for New Zealand composers who wish to work and live in Wellington for up to a year.

Located on Ascot Street

Ascot St, Thorndon, Wellington 6011, New Zealand