Barbara Henderson

Here I am wheeling Barbara Henderson into the welcome party that was held for me a week or so ago. Barbara is the person who was responsible for architect Ernst Plischke coming to Alexandra, from Wellington by bus in 1950 to design and build this house, the house in which I am now living for a year. Barbara now lives in a rest home near here although she maintains a studio on this 3 and a half acres, to which she comes, with a nurse, every Tuesday afternoon.

The Henderson Arts Trust Residency.

I’m living in this house designed by Ernst Plischke and built, here in Alexandra, in 1950. The louvres
visible in this photo are a device to provide ventilation in order to cope with the fiercely hot weather that this region enjoys, often the hottest weather in the whole of New Zealand. One advantage for many is that this is a major region for growing Pinot Noir. The surrounding landscape has many many vineyards, or as a German friend of mine so enchantingly calls them, wineyards.

The stone used to build the walls of this house was cut from the basement. The white hatch that you see on the side of the wall is used to provide a portal for firewood.

Many people who come up the long sweeping driveway that leads through this three and a half acres to this wonderful building immediately think Frank Lloyd Wright. The flat roof
would not be allowed now. They are required to have more pitch, partly because there is a possibility of snow here, this area also has the coldest winters in New Zealand.

This is a most unusual residency for two reasons. Firstly, it is not media specific, the first recipient, last year was Vincent O’Sullivan, a writer. Secondly, one cannot apply, it is by invitation only.

A View from the House

Here is a view from my balcony over the township and the new bridge in Alexandra.
On the hill in the background, tiny and rather indistinct is their famous clock. I’ll photograph this again I’m sure, and put it on this site.

Just visible is the Clutha, one of the biggest rivers in New Zealand, reaching the sea at Balclutha on the east coast, just below Dunedin.

Behind and under the new 1958 bridge is a pylon from the original one built in 1882. Laurence Aberhart photographed this, in fact it’s on the cover of the latest Auckland Art Gallery publication, On Show.

Below is a photograph of the architect of this house, taken about 3 years before he came to Alexandra by bus to undertake this commission.

This is a catalogue from a Plischke exhibition at the City Gallery in Wellington
in 2004.

Henderson House, Alexandra

This is my home for the next year. It’s a house designed by Austrian architect Ernst Plischke, in 1950. A couple from Alexandra, here in Central Otago, Russell & Barbara Henderson, commissioned him to design them this home on some land over the river, the mighty Clutha, overlooking the town.

Russell Henderson died in 1998 and Barbara Henderson is now in a rest home nearby. Every Tuesday she visits her studio that she maintains in a separate building on the three acres that this house sits on.

Philanthropists, they set up a trust so that this house can be used by artists who would like to come to live here for a specified period of time. There are no limits on media. The first resident was Vincent O’Sulllivan, writer. I am the second.

This residency cannot be applied for. It is offered along with a generous allowance.

Plischke lived in New Zealand from 1939 until 1963 when he returned to Austria. He died in 1992.

The house is made from stone that was cut from the site. The louvres visible in the photo help with ventilation, very necessary in Central Otago which has the highest (and the lowest) temperatures in New Zealand.