Vernon Brown House

91 Arney Road, Auckland

  • Vernon Brown House. March 1990. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Unknown.
  • Vernon Brown House. June 1986. Image courtesy of ‘Sir George Grey Special Collections', Auckland Libraries, ref. 1052-M3-9.
    Copyright: Auckland Libraries . Taken By: Unknown.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7290 Date Entered 14th December 1995

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 3 DP 22488, City of Auckland

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Vernon Brown was a pioneer in modern vernacular idiom and his work played a major role in the development of indigenous architecture in New Zealand.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Aesthetic:

At the time that the Vernon Brown house was designed (1939) it proposed a radical aesthetic in the form of spacious interiors which were contained within a relatively small floor plan. It is instantly notable for the sense of economic proportion which characterises its interior.

Architectural:

The house at 91 Arney Rd represents a transitional phase in the development of Modern architectural designs towards a New Zealand vernacular architecture. The architect, Vernon Brown, consciously employed New Zealand materials in the construction of the place and sought a New Zealand form for his building. The house was awarded the NZIA Bronze Medal in 1940.

Technological:

Vernon Brown consciously employed New Zealand materials in the construction of his buildings, notably timber weatherboards and, originally, a 'Super six asbestos' roof, since replaced by a standard corrugated asbestos roof.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The following comments are made in relation to the criteria identified under S.23(2) of the Historic Places Act 1993.

b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The building is an identifiable starting point in the movement of New Zealand modern vernacular architecture. Here Brown attempted to align modern building theory with the New Zealand environment. To do this he went back to the more simple shapes of early colonial construction. The house at Arney Rd can be viewed as a transitional stage before he moved onto his more modern designs.

g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

Brown's own home at 91 Arney Rd, recognised for its well proportioned and simple plan, is clearly divided between living, service and bedroom areas. The open living areas to the north of the house form an L shape. The windows are carefully placed, the sills are kept low to bring the garden inside. A large nine pane window faces Arney Rd, three casements on the east wall look towards Hobson Bay. The northern wall has two sash windows, one of which directly lines up with a fireplace on the south wall, further balanced by two recessed book shelves. A glass screen etched with the architect and his wife's star signs divides the hall from the dining room. At the end of the dining room a passage leads to a bathroom and a later addition, designed by Gordon Smith, consisting of two bedrooms and a bathroom.

The kitchen opens onto a breakfast room with French doors onto the terrace.

Details include round frosted glass on the toilet door, polished kauri floors, plaster corner lights in the living room.

The exterior has simple clear lines. The house is a long building clad in shiplap timber with a low pitched asbestos roof. On the west side a porch is supported on three steel columns. To the east Gordon Smith's additions step down the site, forming a saltbox roof to the main building line.

In the design of this house Vernon Brown went one step beyond the traditionalist and Internationalist mould by basing the design on economic considerations ie, on economy of space and economy of materials. Perhaps the most significant point in understanding the house is the fact that Brown himself identified it with the New Zealand environment and not with an internationalist modern environment.

Conclusion:

The Vernon Brown House, 91 Arney Rd, Remuera, Auckland, is recommended for registration as a Category I as a place of special and outstanding historical and cultural heritage significance and value. 91 Arney Rd was the prize winning design and home of pioneer architect Vernon Brown whose work played a major role in the development of indigenous architecture in New Zealand.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Brown, Vernon

Vernon Brown

Vernon Akitt Brown was born in March 1905, the son of a surveyor in Liverpool, England. He studied at the Northern Polytechnic School of Architecture and qualified as an architect in 1924. Three years later he emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand with his parents and three brothers. He worked for several architectural firms including Grierson, Aimer and Draffin, for whom he detailed the lettering of the award-winning Auckland War Memorial Museum. In 1930, Brown became an associate member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

There was little work for architects during the Depression of the 1930s and Brown lost his job in the resulting retrenchment. He became a labourer under the government unemployment relief scheme before finding work with a building firm and then returning to architecture. In the mid 1930s Brown worked for architect Kenneth Aimer, who was awarded the New Zealand Institute of Architects gold medal for the Marina Gardens flats in Mt Eden in 1936. At the award ceremony Aimer gave credit to Brown for his work on the project and stated that it was Brown who should have received the medal.

In March 1937 Brown married Lesley Waller and the following year built a home in Bell Road Remuera for his new wife. This would be one of three houses built in Bell Road to Vernon Brown's plans. Many of Brown's other designs were constructed nearby, with the suburb of Remuera being home to sixteen of his buildings.

It was also in 1937 that Brown established his own architectural practice and that same year he began contributing a regular column on decoration and design published in the Monocle. He also contributed articles to Home and Building magazine, where he could share his radical ideas on design with a wider audience. In 1940 he was awarded the New Zealand Institute of Architects bronze medal for domestic architecture for the design of his home at 91 Arney Road, which was built to accommodate his expanding family.

In 1942 - the year that Haigh house was constructed - Brown began teaching as a studio instructor at the Auckland University School of Architecture. In the same year, he also formed a partnership with architect Robin Simpson. The pair won the New Zealand Institute of Architects bronze medal for domestic architecture in 1946, and in 1948 Brown was promoted to the position of lecturer. In his teaching roles he influenced a generation of young architects, having a reputation as an original thinker who encouraged his students to challenge accepted attitudes.

Brown's last architectural design was completed in 1957, which was the Titirangi home of Archibald Fisher, head of the Elam School of Fine Arts. He continued lecturing until late 1964.

Brown's talents were not solely confined to architecture. He was an accomplished painter and book jacket designer and was also interested in ceramics. His paintings were shown at a solo exhibition at the John Leech Gallery in 1964.

Brown died in January 1965 at the age of 59.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1939 -

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Nomination Form

Other Information

NZIA Bronze Award Winner 1940

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Northern region office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.