Nearly forty years ago, photographer Brian Brake asked a young architect to design a home for him in the Titirangi bush, from which that young architect, Ron Sang, produced one of his best works—and a model for the Titirangi bush house.
Allan Wild, former Head of the School of Architecture at the University of Auckland, describes the design process:
The site had been found for Brake by Wellington photographer Spencer Digby, who had apprenticed him. Sculptor Guy Ngan introduced Brake to Auckland architect Ron Sang, who proceeded to design the house by correspondence with Brake over six months, with eighteen revisions. The result was a brilliant combination of spaces and places of exquisite quality and beauty, designed for the Waitakere bush, but including a distant outlook to the city.
The house is in two distinct parts, sleeping and entertaining, linked by a glass bridge. Most of it is only one room wide. Protruding from the main linear form are a deck, supported on a single post, and a glass-walled tatami room, reflecting Brake’s love of Asia.
The Council’s Heritage Assessment tells more of the site’s story, and the Auckland Architecture Association’s recent review of the house has more photographs.
It is a Category 1 listed historical house, recognised by DOCOMOMO New Zealand as being among the top 20 modern buildings, and was awarded the NZIA Enduring Architectural Award in 2001 and NZIA (Auckland) District Branch Design Award in 1985.
Ironically, for a house so praised and so valued, it could not be built today in its present form. Under the present Building Code, many of the features that give it its singular character would be illegal.