William (Bill)) Haresnape 1921-1991
Education & Career :
Studied Architecture at the University of Auckland School of Architecture in the mid 1940’s; the 1946 History of Architecture class also included Des Mullen and Jack Manning while his Architectural Construction class (part one) contained the likes of John Scott, Campbell Craig and Des Mullen.
He later trained as a teacher at Auckland Teachers Training College and then taught at Henderson High School after graduating in 1956.
Elected to the Waitemata City Council in 1974. He was prompted to become a councillor through frustration over his dealings with the council and to further his concern for environmental issues. He stood on an environmental platform & became a member of the Council’s Planning Committee in the year of his election.
Haresnape designed a number of modernist houses in the Waitakere Ranges as well as a bach at Piha.
He was interested in the preservation of the environment, in particular the Waitakere bush and historic/architecturally important buildings. In Titirangi he was known as the ‘ginger man’ as a result of his dedication to spreading the word about noxious weeds (he would personally knock on doors to let people know they had ginger growing on their section). In honour of his work, a bush track was named after him in Titirangi. He was also a member of the Executive Council of the Auckland Heritage Trust and dedicated a lot of time to photographing streets & buildings to record them for posterity. His photo albums are now held by Auckland Museum where he was a member of the Trust board.
He was an avid collector of jazz records designing a ‘den’ in his own house for storing and listening to jazz records. Many parties were held at the house with jazz bands playing in the open plan living area and is also well remembered for his red e-type jaguar.
He was a keen reader of books and architectural journals.
Career highlight/major work
Haresnape House, 1955-58, 4 Otitori Bay Road, Titirangi.
The house was situated on 10 acres overlooking French Bay with spectacular views to the airport & the south coast of the Manuka Harbour and at one time a view back to Auckland City, but the bush now blocks this out. The driveway is part of the original old farm road which ran from Reckies (now Toby’s) on the corner of Park Road to Avonleigh Road, Green Bay and also passes one of his other works, the Swinburn House in Takahe Rd.
The house is large in scale & thoroughly modern both for its time and in current design terms. It seems representative of the man, bold, tenacious, full of ideas and enthusiasm. Built over a three year period it was highly ambitious, requiring hard work & resourcefulness on the part of Haresnape and his family. In true ‘Westie’ style, wooden beams up to 10m long, were brought in along the winding track on the roof of his V8 (1).Many trips were made to local quarries to collect stone for the walls most of which he and the family built, initially with a hand mixer.! He collaborated with his friend and local architect Bruce Henderson to import glass panels large enough to achieve the floor to ceiling ‘walls’ of glass he required.
Haresnape’s architectural hero was Frank Lloyd Wright and his influence is particularly evident in the dramatic siting of the house on a spur of rock at the top of a ridge. The house hovers at the edge, the land dropping steeply down to Wood Bay. It is anchored to the land at one end with a strong fireplace element, its stone walls extending out into the landscape. At the other end the rectilinear forms project out over the spur of rock allowing for a carport and a covered terrace area below. Part of the terrace area was filled in to provide a ‘parents’ lounge, master bedroom and en-suite in the 1970s. Access to this area is via a Kauri staircase which occupies a generous double height space with a full wall of glass that butts up against the stone retaining wall that runs from the interior to the exterior of the house.
The house was experimental, testing his ideas about architecture. He had access to magazines which featured works by the California Modernists Neutra and Eames & their influence is evident in the house’s modern planning, rectilinear forms, walls of glass & use of industrial materials, in particular aluminium cladding.
It is also reminiscent of Neutra’s Kaufmann Desert House in a number of ways; the cruciform plan and rock walls that reinforce the plan and extend the house out into the landscape. Both houses have large expanses of glass that slide back to connect the indoors with the outdoors. Haresnape’s innovation was to slide the glass back beyond the window on tracks one storey above the ground. The desert house also has a flat roof which is filled with gravel to protect the roof material & insulate the house. Haresnape filled his flat roof with water to protect the butynol roof, provide insulation to the house and a playground for local birds.
The planning is modern, with expansive open plan living areas and separate zones for parents and children. The open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area is modulated with built in furniture, a central fireplace and changes in level. The proportions of the rooms are very satisfying and the large expanses of glass provide beautiful views of the bush and harbour. There is easy access to decks, lawn & bush with kauri growing immediately beside the decks. The house is a comfortable, pleasing space to be in, making it difficult to leave.
Until recently the house was not well known in architectural circles. Val Haresnape recounted her husband’s belief that the house was considered “too American, too Australian” by his contemporaries in Auckland.
(2) In response to this disclosure architect and academic Bill McKay wrote of the house “it is not a copy of anything, it is an original conception beautifully related to its site”.
(3) In 2009 the house was given the recognition it deserves by the New Zealand Institute of Architects with an ‘Enduring Award’ for architecture. The NZIA web-site states – “Described by the jury as “this lost jewel in the Titirangi bush”, the house built between 1955 and 1958, was inspired by Californian designers of the era – a style rarely seen in contemporary domestic architecture in New Zealand.”
(4) The house is currently owned by Beverley Isbill and partner Julian. Beverley purchased the house from Mrs Haresnape in 1992. It now operates at the ‘Fringe of Heaven’ Bed and Breakfast. The house is largely original however the porch at end of house has been filled in & the kitchen replaced. The owners are considering reinstating the porch.
Haresnape designed a number of other modernist houses in the Titirangi/Waitakere Ranges area including:
Son’s House, Scenic Drive, Titirangi.
Mother’s House, Park Road, Titirangi (alteration to original cottage)
Swinburn House, Takahe Rd, Titirangi.
Valley Road, French Bay
Tinopai Road, Titirangi
York Road, Titirangi
West Coast Road, Waiatarua.
Bach, Rayner Road, Piha for Desmond Schubert
(1)NZ Herald article 17 January 1991, Section 2, page 3
(2)Interview with Val Haresnape, 9 June 1998, cited in McKay, Bill, ‘A Possum in the Kiwi Bush’ p 210
(3) McKay, Bill, ‘A Possum in the Kiwi Bush’ p 210
NZ Herald article 17 January 1991, Section 2, page 3
McKay, Bill, ‘A Possum in the Kiwi Bush’ in R. Blythe & R. Spense (Eds.), Thresholds, pp. 209-212, SAHANZ, 1999;
Douglas Lloyd Jenkins article – Viva