It is with sadness that we mourn the passing of Stephen A. Jelicich ONZM, the last surviving co-founder of JASMaD, later to become Jasmax, one of New Zealand’s largest and longest established architecture and design practices.
Stephen A. Jelicich (ONZM) was born in 1923 in the Croatian village of Sucurai on the Island of Hvar, migrating to New Zealand in 1927. Educated in Auckland, Stephen (Steve) went on to study Architecture at the University of Auckland where he graduated in 1949. In the same year, Steve initiated the formation of design firm, Brenner Associates Ltd (1949-1959), where he worked with world-renowned artist Milan Mrkusich. The establishment of a firm at this time, just four years after the Second World War, was a bold move; materials were still under strict control and as such were difficult to get a hold of. Despite this, the firm ran successfully for a decade.
In 1963, after nine years with Brenner Associates and a further five years of private practice, Steve became one of five founding directors of architectural design practice JASMaD (which became Jasmax in 1989); he was quite literally the ‘J’ that continues today. It was during this period that Steve held a significant role in the New Zealand Institute of Architect’s Auckland Planning Group (an early taskforce in the days of the city’s urban planning), and a catalyst for his involvement with the other founding members of JASMaD. Within the Auckland Planning Group, Steve was one of the key drivers behind the pedestrianisation of Vulcan Lane in Auckland’s CBD; one of the earliest examples of shared public space within the city’s centre.
In 1989, JASMaD merged with two younger, smaller practices to become Jasmax – it’s now one of New Zealand’s largest and longest established multidisciplinary architectural design practices.
Achieving this was Steve’s aspirational vision for the practice, which saw JASMaD forge the way for truly multidisciplinary practices in New Zealand as early as the mid-1960s.Steve was central to the JASMaD Design Group, which, building on his work from Brenner Associates, saw him focus his creative talents in industrial and exhibition design. Further to this, Steve was one of the earliest adopters of environmentally sustainable design, with him attending the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.
A Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architecture, Steve’s contribution to Auckland and its various communities was further recognised by his appointment to The New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2003.
Alongside his life in architecture, Steve was a lifelong historian with an interest in his heritage, and had an active involvement in the Dalmatian/Yugoslavian/Croatian community. This passion culminated in a book he published, ‘From Distant Villages: the Lives and Times of Croatian Settlers in New Zealand, 1858-1958’ in 2008, which was well-received by the community for its anecdotal accuracy of the personal hardships endured by many of these immigrants.
Steve continued to be involved with Jasmax long after leaving the practice, and will be fondly and widely remembered across the industry for his quickness of wit, ability to tell a (cheesy) story and his good natured, front-footed attention to detail. “He never lost contact with us.” – John Sutherland (ONZM)
Our thoughts remain with Steve’s family and friends.