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Photographer Brian Brake was a master of light and composition. His house speaks of the quality and breadth of his vision, and his infallible instinct for detail –



Designed by architect Ron Sang for renowned photojournalist Brian Brake, this house sits across three sections nestled into a valley above Titirangi, in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges.

"The site was brilliant – a valley with views and sun, and a mass of trees. Brian was very receptive to ideas, but he was also extremely particular. It was to be his workplace as well as his home and he wanted every little detail to be correct," says Sang.

From the main courtyard, an impressive totara-decked walkway leads to the main entrance at the centre of the house.

"Brian wanted the approach to the house to be an experience," says Sang. "We deliberately made a long, wide, covered bridge to the front door, with gardens leading right up to the bridge on both sides. It's almost like an outdoor foyer."

Immediately inside is the first main area, comprising entrance gallery, kitchen, family room, dining room and living room. For most of its length the house is only one room wide, allowing it to merge into the bush surrounds. The upper level consists of living areas and bedrooms.


Brake was a very private person, and he wanted to separate the sleeping and entertaining zones. That was achieved by treating the zones almost like separate houses, linked by a glass bridge. The sleeping wing includes two bedrooms, each with ensuite bathrooms, two studies, and the tatami room – named for a set of intricately woven tatami mats gifted to Brake by his Japanese publisher.

The bedrooms and tatami room all radiate from a square corridor formed around a glazed-off stairwell, which in turn leads beneath the house to a basement wing. This area incorporates a guest bedroom and bathroom, as well as Brake's studio.

Brake's death in August 1988 was untimely. He was mourned by lovers of photography worldwide, by the entire New Zealand art community, and by those who were aware of the mana he brought this country overseas. He has left an inspiring, permanent legacy through his pictures and his home.

First published date: 01 July 2009

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