Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Brian Brake House, by Ron Sang

Auckland Architect Brake House

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.

Auckland Architect Brake 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.

Auckland Architect Brake House

Architect Ron Sang’s own site tells more of the story.

Auckland Architect Brake House

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.

Auckland Architect Brake House

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.

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14 comments:

  1. Looks poorly maintained and liable to leak and rot.

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  2. Liable to, when? It's been standing successfully for nearly forty years.

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  3. House and site positioning looks great - but if I was a buyer that flat roof and potential for water ingress in that environment would worry me.

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  4. A lovely home. The Nats have had five years to change the rules so that more like it could be built now. Instead of which, as PC observed in the previous post, all they've done is enlarge the Nanny State just as their predecessors did.

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  5. What a wonderful home and view!

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  6. There will be a lot of mosquitoes?

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  7. And what about the builders!? An excellent team of craftsmen builders, led by Richard Carbines and Jack Carmody inter alia, from Jenkins Construction, Carr Rd, Mt Roskill (no longer building houses, unfortunately) built the house; the master craftsman plumber was Don Spray. Their names should also be recorded for posterity - without their craftsmanship there would be no house. On completion, all the workmen associated with the project were shouted KFC and wine - quite revolutionary at the time!

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  8. Sorry, the builder's name should be Jack Tallentire (not Carmody), my mistake.

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  9. Unfortunately the homes we design today just can't cut it architecturally with masterpieces like this. There is a vacant piece of land just to the south west of this property, on the edge of Scenic Drive, which looks enticing to build on. If only I could emulate Sang.....

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    1. Hi Peter. I like to think "we" can at least hope to approach it. :-)

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  10. Of course Peter. And there are other interesting areas of architecture to explore. But, it is modernist architecture in it's most pure distilled forms that grabs the hearts of many Architects. And the building codes of NZ and Australia have moved on to a point, in my opinion, where architectural expression is being extremely squeezed, or forced down a very very narrow path. But yes, you keep trying!!!

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    1. "...the building codes of NZ and Australia have moved on to a point, in my opinion, where architectural expression is being extremely squeezed, or forced down a very very narrow path."

      Ain't that the truth! When I open today's magazines, I find it hard to tell one house from another, let alone find something with a soul.

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  11. A genuine masterpiece–congratulations, Mr Sang! I would be interested to know what features of the house could not be built under today's regulations.

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