Historical Significance or Value
The place has considerable historical significance for its connections with the development of tourism in early twentieth-century New Zealand, and especially in Auckland’s Waitākere Ranges. It has close links with the increasing popularity of bush scenery and the wider outdoors as a source of recreation. It is particularly associated with the growing popularity of museums and New Zealand’s natural and cultural past in the 1920s; the expansion of motorised tourism at that time and subsequently; and attempts to create a luxury visitor market equivalent to that in Australia’s Blue Mountains and elsewhere overseas. The economic struggles of its owners in the 1930s reflect the impacts of the Great Depression.
The place is also historically significant for its connections with the state education of deaf children in New Zealand. Between 1942 and 1958, it housed the main School for the Deaf in the North Island. It is especially connected with institutional approaches to teaching children with hearing impairments, which were dominant in the mid-twentieth century. It is further significant as New Zealand’s first residential centre for the in-service training of teachers (1960-1982).
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The place has high aesthetic significance for the considerable visual appeal of the former Hotel Titirangi and associated Te Uru Gallery. The former hotel is a highly significant landmark in Titirangi and, in its unusual turret and overall presentation, distinctive within the wider region. The building retains a significant amount of visually exotic ornamentation linked with its Spanish Mission design, particularly on its north elevation. Internally, it incorporates numerous components with unusual or otherwise striking visual appeal, including a graceful spiral staircase, a highly ornamented working elevator and surviving bathrooms of simple but elegant style.
The aesthetic significance of the place is increased by Te Uru Gallery which, in contrast to the exotic ornamentation of other buildings within the place, displays influences derived from New Zealand’s earlier natural and cultural history. This structure is striking in both its exterior and interior composition and impact. The aesthetic appeal of both the former Titirangi Hotel and Te Uru Gallery are enhanced by extensive views looking out from the buildings, especially from the roof terrace of the former hotel and rear staircase of the gallery. The aesthetic value of both structures has been acknowledged in National Awards accorded by the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 2015.
Architectural Significance or Value
The place is of high architectural significance for retaining a relatively well-preserved hotel design by W. S. R. Bloomfield, probably the earliest architect of Māori descent to attend an architecture school and practise professionally. The former Hotel Titirangi can be considered one of the most significant of a group of buildings designed by Bloomfield in Auckland during the late 1920s and early 1930s that collectively reflect the versatility and skill of his practice. The hotel structure is especially important as a major design by Bloomfield in the Spanish Mission style, which directly reflects North American influences. At a national level, it can be considered significant as an uncommon and otherwise important example of ‘luxury-end’ hotel design linked with tourism in late 1920s and early 1930s New Zealand. Its architectural significance is enhanced by it being recognised through a National Award by the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 2015, following its conservation and refurbishment by Mitchell and Stout.
The place is also of architectural value for incorporating a well-preserved example of small museum design from the 1920s, a period when museum construction in New Zealand grew in importance. Known as the Treasure House, this building especially demonstrates the extension of neo-classical design for such structures to encompass smaller amenities linked with private enterprise. The building has further architectural significance as a surviving design by R. B. Hammond, a significant figure in the development of urban planning and especially garden city ideas. Adopting aspects of domestic Arts and Crafts design and having a landscaped ‘fairy glen’ setting, it can be seen to directly reflect Hammond’s broader ideas at a time when he came to national prominence.
The architectural significance of the place is particularly enhanced by Te Uru Gallery, created in 2012-14, which won a National Award for Public Architecture from the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 2015. The gallery is a notable design by the important partnership of Mitchell and Stout, who have been at the leading edge of architectural practice in late twentieth- and early twenty first-century New Zealand.
Social Significance or Value
The place has high social significance for its importance to the arts community in West Auckland over a lengthy period. A major cultural hub for the area since the 1980s, it has been considered central to the identity of this community, which has played a significant role in the artistic life of the wider region since the 1950s. Broader community connections with the place extend back to at least the 1920s, and earlier in relation to significant meetings held in the former tea kiosk on the site. The social significance of the place is enhanced by the 2012-14 addition of Te Uru Gallery, reinforcing its value to both the local and wider Auckland arts community. Construction of the gallery and conservation of the former hotel and Treasure House occurred in conjunction with major community involvement.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The place demonstrates significant aspects of New Zealand history connected with the development of tourism and an expanding interest in New Zealand’s natural and cultural world during the early twentieth century. It particularly reflects the growing importance of outdoor resorts, including the Waitākere Ranges, as a visitor destination during this period. It demonstrates a growing emphasis on luxury tourism in the late 1920s, and the importance of motor travel in New Zealand - of particular note in a country that was among the most motorised per capita in the world. Through the conversion of bedrooms to dormitories and other alterations within the former Hotel Titirangi, the place also reflects use as an important institution in the education of deaf children in mid-twentieth century New Zealand.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The place is associated with important events in New Zealand history, including the impacts of the Great Depression in the 1930s and state reorganisation of education facilities for deaf children during the Second World War (1939-45). It also has connections with many notable individuals, including the Governor-General Lord Bledisloe and Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, who both visited the former Treasure House. The place is additionally associated with J. G. Coates, who in his capacity as the Reform Party leader and former Prime Minister opened Hotel Titirangi in 1930; the internationally renowned educationalist and socialist Helen Keller, who visited the School for the Deaf in 1948; and Governor-General Sir Paul Reeve, who opened the Waitematā City Arts Centre in 1986. The place is further connected with the memory of Frank Lopdell, a nationally significant educationalist; and the wealthy engineer and philanthropist Henry Atkinson, who donated large amounts of land for public reserves in the Waitākere Ranges - critical in the development of local tourism - and whose statue sits in a prominent public position outside the former hotel.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The place can be considered to enjoy special public esteem, having been purchased by council authorities after pressure from the local community in the early 1980s, and continuously used as a key community venue since that time. During this period of several decades, it has operated as a major cultural hub for West Auckland, with strong community-run input. The latter were instrumental in efforts to conserve the former Titirangi Hotel and Treasure House and construct Te Uru Gallery in 2012-14 – both accorded National Awards by the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 2015. These were respectively granted for reasons that included the degree to which conservation of the former hotel enhanced and encouraged ongoing community use, and the highly unusual extent to which the gallery was immediately valued and appreciated by its community.
Lengthy community association with the place includes prior use of the site as a kiosk venue for public gatherings and activities; and employment of the former Hotel Titirangi and Treasure House as tearooms and dance hall.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
Owned and used by the public in an area that remains a popular visitor destination, the place has strong potential for public education about a variety of issues including the development of tourism in this country; past attitudes to the cultural and natural environment; the contribution of W. S. R. Bloomfield to New Zealand architecture; and the education of people with physical impairments. In addition to the surviving fabric of the place, it is associated with a large volume of visual and written documentary information that enhances its potential in these regards. Te Uru Gallery increases the possibilities of the place for public education through use for exhibitions and related activities such as teaching.
(g) The technical accomplishment, value, or design of the place
The place exhibits special significance for its visual landmark and other aesthetic qualities, which have been recognised by two National Awards by the New Zealand Institute of Architects. The former Hotel Titirangi is an important local landmark and a notable example of luxury hotel architecture linked with high-status tourism in 1920s and 1930s New Zealand. This building was erected as a major design by W. S. R. Bloomfield – who can be considered nationally important as probably the first person of Māori descent to formally train and practise as a Western-style architect – and has particular value as his most prominent commission of Spanish Mission style. The exterior of the building as initially designed has been generally well-preserved and the interior retains a considerable number of features linked with the early layout of the hotel and its relative luxuriousness. Conservation and refurbishment in 2012-14 was recognised to have enhanced appreciation of the initial design and reinstated its impact as a notable presence in the landscape. Accorded a National Award, this work can also be regarded as the best-recognised contribution in the field of conservation-related architecture by Mitchell and Stout, a highly significant partnership at the forefront of architectural practice in late twentieth- and early twenty first-century New Zealand.
The adjoining Mitchell and Stout-designed addition of Te Uru Gallery (2012-14) was similarly accorded a National Award, in this instance for Public Architecture. This recognised the extent to which the building had its own striking visual identity but was also sympathetic to the former hotel, to which it is physically connected. Collectively, they provide Titirangi with a distinctive identity that entwines the importance of its past with ongoing cultural community activity.
The place is also important for incorporating an uncommon example of early twentieth-century, small museum design, created by a significant individual linked with New Zealand’s town planning and garden city movements, R. B. Hammond.
The presence of three visually distinctive structures associated with separate, nationally notable designers, can be seen to particularly enhance the architectural importance of the place. This is particularly the case as they collectively demonstrate shifts in approach to architectural design in this country from British to North American and, most recently, New Zealand influences.
Summary of Significance or Values
The place has special significance for its visual landmark and other aesthetic qualities, which have been recognised by two National Awards by the New Zealand Institute of Architects. The place also has special value for the extent and depth of its associations with the West Auckland arts community, which has made a significant contribution to cultural life in the wider area. The place is historically important for reasons that include its connections with the development of tourism in early twentieth-century New Zealand, and use as the main place of state education for deaf children in the North Island. It is architecturally significant for incorporating notable and well-preserved examples of small museum and high-status resort hotel designs by two creators of national importance, respectively R. B. Hammond and W. S. R. Bloomfield, as well as the award-winning Mitchell and Stout-designed Te Uru Gallery.
Te Kawerau a Maki traditions relate that the earliest occupants of the large forest covering the Waitākere ranges included Patupaiarehe or fairy people. Known to Te Kawerau as Tuhurangi, the latter are recalled in the name Waitahurangi, a watercourse extending from the Titirangi ridge to the Whau River. Subsequent arrivals from Hawaiiki included the tohunga of the Tainui waka, Rakataura - also known as Hape - who named many places adjoining the Manukau Harbour, including Titirangi. From the 1600s onwards, occupants included Te Kawerau a Maki, the northernmost grouping of the Tainui confederation.
During the eighteenth century, conflict between iwi to the north and south, Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara and Te Waiohua, resulted in battles at nearby Paruroa (Big Muddy Creek) and Paturoa (Titirangi Creek) - at which Ngāti Whātua prevailed. Te Kawerau and other groups continued to occupy the area, but pressure for the exploitation of timber resources increasingly led to land passing into European hands from the late 1830s onwards. In the mid-1850s, the land on which the future Hotel Titirangi, Te Uru Gallery and Treasure House were erected formed part of Allotments 44-46, obtained by Auckland-based sawmillers Thomas Canty and John Bishop. The year after tree-felling in 1857, Bishop purchased Canty’s share to establish a farm, following the general pattern of Pākehā holdings in the area. A farmhouse, Dunvegan, was erected a short distance to the west of the current Hotel Titirangi site, accessed via a gated track along what is now Titirangi Road. After Bishop died in 1865, the farm was run by his wife Elizabeth (d.1898) before a major portion passed to their eldest son William Thomas Bishop (1860-1943).
Both William Bishop and his son W. A. (Alec) Bishop (1898-1971) were to have a significant impact on Titirangi’s development, promoting its role as a visitor destination in the Auckland region due to its elevated position and spectacular bush scenery.
Construction of the Titirangi Tea Kiosk (pre-1917)
Titirangi gained a reputation as a desirable place for Aucklanders to visit from at least the 1850s. In the mid-1880s, Titirangi’s first hotel was established, promoted as a sanatorium like other visitor destinations in the region, although the venture soon failed when an economic depression set in. Recognising that improved communications were vital for the area’s development, William Bishop directly constructed part of the New Lynn-Huia road, and remained involved in roading matters after being elected to the Waitematā County Council as the first member for Waikumete Riding in 1887. In 1894, extension of the Titirangi Road through Bishop’s land and other improvements led to suggestions of a tourist road circuit through the Waitākere ranges.
It was not, however, until the establishment of several large parks and scenic reserves around Titirangi in the early 1900s and the one-way Exhibition Drive in 1914 that Titirangi developed as a significant gateway for tourism. This coincided with a growing conservation movement nationally, which emerged partly in response to the rapid depletion of native bush due to forestry and other clearance. A major donor of lands in the Titirangi area, including the immediately adjacent Mt Atkinson Reserve in 1913, was wealthy engineer and businessman Henry Atkinson (1838-1921) - who had been manager of the Auckland Gas Company for 35 years - and his immediate family. As an additional stimulus to tourism in the area, motorised vehicles increasingly replaced horse transport, enabling day trippers to venture further afield from urban centres such as Auckland.
By early 1917, a tea kiosk and store was in operation on the site at the corner of Titirangi and South Titirangi Roads. Occupying a ridge top location, the timber structure provided refreshments to visitors as well as offering spectacular views across farmland and native bush towards the Manukau Harbour. The business may have been run by William Bishop’s wife, Alexandrina, from as early as 1914, and evidently also functioned as a post office and venue for public events such as political meetings. It was among two or three tearooms established in Titirangi in response to the expansion of local attractions, indicating the latter’s impact on the immediate economy.
In 1919, the land passed to Alec Bishop, who evidently took over running of the kiosk. Enlarged by 1921, continued public use included use for a polling station during the special liquor referendum in April 1919 when national alcohol prohibition was narrowly defeated; an address by Ellen Melville in favour of greater women’s representation in parliament; and ratepayers’ meetings in 1923 to advocate for a new concrete road connecting New Lynn and the summit of Titirangi, terminating at the kiosk - at which Alec Bishop was a moving force. Over the Christmas holidays in 1923-4, Titirangi received an estimated 8000 visitors from Auckland. The views from Mt Atkinson, represented as ‘the nearest bush to the city’, formed a major attraction.
Construction of the Treasure House (1926)
Encouraged by Titirangi’s popularity, Alec Bishop subdivided the land on which the tea kiosk was located. In 1926, a section downhill from the kiosk was purchased by a close relative, Dargaville jeweller Frank Oscar Peat (1883-1945), who had spent more than two decades collecting artefacts linked with New Zealand’s natural and cultural past. Reflecting a widespread growth of interest in such matters, particularly after the First World War, Peat decided to display his collection in a purpose-built museum on the site. Part of his collection had previously been shown at the New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition in Dunedin (1925-6), and was also suggested for the New Zealand pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition in London in 1924-5.
Erection of the new museum coincided with a wave of new construction among museum institutions in the 1920s and 1930s, responding to both local pressures and international trends. Like the contemporaneous Auckland War Memorial Museum (1924-9) and the later Dominion Museum in Wellington (1933-6), it adopted aspects of neo-classical style, reflecting its role as a sanctuary of learning. Designed by the notable planner and architect Reginald B. Hammond, Peat’s Treasure House was erected as a small, rectangular building of single-storey, concrete construction with a tiled roof and front portico - described after its opening in late 1926 as ‘not unlike a Greek temple’. A major proponent of the garden city movement, Hammond had recently gained a national profile for his design of the proposed Orakei Garden Suburb (1925) as well as helping to draft the country’s first Town-planning Act and becoming New Zealand’s first director of town planning (1926).
Peat’s collection was displayed inside the main hall, measuring 18.29 x 7.62 m (60 x 25 feet). The exhibits included a large collection of kauri gum, proclaimed to be from every gumfield in North Auckland and considered by visiting experts to be ‘the finest they had ever seen, and in all probability the best in the world’. The collection also contained numerous Māori artefacts, including the carved sternpost of a large waka from the Manukau Harbour, numerous pou, and many smaller objects such as mere, tiki and fishtraps. A suit of armour traditionally said to have been given to a Māori rangatira by King George IV in 1820 was also a major exhibit. Artefacts from the natural world included stuffed birds such as the extinct huia, rare seashells and ‘a fine exhibit of the large native snail found in kauri forests’. Outside the building, a ‘fairy dell’ containing the widest possible variety of native trees and shrubs was planted as a botanical museum or garden. A small, adjoining souvenir shop was also added.
Prominent visitors to the museum included the Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba and the Governor General, Lord Bledisloe - who in 1932 gifted Waitangi to the nation. Advertisements promoted both the Treasure House and adjoining tea kiosk as accessible by daily buses from the centre of Auckland. By this time, the kiosk and store additionally accommodated a post office. As an ongoing place of public gathering, the kiosk hosted further discussions about the construction of a concrete road to Titirangi. By the late 1920s, New Zealand had become one of the most motorised countries in the world per capita, with increasing numbers of its inhabitants exploring the countryside by car. In 1929, shortly before a poll to enable funding of the road, Alec Bishop was elected to the body that would oversee its construction, the Waitematā County Council.
Construction of Hotel Titirangi (1930)
Pre-empting the proposed road, Bishop set up a company - Hotel Titirangi Limited - in 1928, to purchase his kiosk business and erect a large, high-quality hotel on the site. Conceived shortly before the depths of the Great Depression, the venture was claimed to be the first attempt to establish near Auckland a luxurious hotel on the lines of those in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, and other parts of the world. At this time, New Zealand had comparatively few grand hotels - considered by some private entrepreneurs to be an impediment to attracting overseas visitors and other tourists seeking to experience the country’s unique landscape and culture. Proposed solutions included creating luxurious, resort hotels based on North American prototypes, as at Titirangi and the near-contemporary Chateau Hotel or Chateau Tongariro, erected in the central North Island in 1929. Pre-existing accommodation, as at the Waitomo Hotel - the most profitable government-run resort in the country - was also proposed for upgrading.
At Titirangi, the intent was to cater for businessmen working in Auckland as well as weekend tourists and more general visitors. The latter included sightseers from overseas liners at Auckland port. Extensive views from the site were promoted as a major feature. Initial plans were for a building accommodating 63 guests.
As erected in 1930, the new hotel followed revised plans for a less ambitious, 24-bedroom structure. At five storeys high and incorporating an ornate Spanish Mission design, it was nevertheless a landmark building that dominated the local landscape. In addition to incorporating many initially proposed features such as a tea room, roof garden, ballroom and basement garage, provision was made for a dining room, two shops and a post office– continuing some of the functions of the earlier kiosk, which was removed to allow construction after December 1929. The building was of concrete frame and slab construction, with infill brick walls and a clay tile roof. Both the initial plans and revisions were undertaken by William Swanson Read Bloomfield (1885-1968), who can be considered nationally significant for probably being the first person of Māori descent to study at an architectural school and practise as a Western-style architect.
Of Ngāti Kahungunu descent on his mother’s side, Bloomfield had studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania (1911-13) at a time when American hotels formed the global standard for commercial hospitality. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was responsible for several notable buildings in Auckland of varying architectural influence and design, including the Chicago-Style Yorkshire House in Shortland Street (1926-8), the Arts and Crafts St Augustine’s Church in Devonport (1930), and the Station Hotel in Beach Road which incorporates Art Deco detailing (1930). His versatility can also be seen in the design of hangars (1928) and club rooms (1930-1) for Māngere’s Auckland Aero Club, and several domestic house commissions.
Bloomfield’s design at Titirangi took full advantage of the site at the ridgetop junction of Titirangi and South Titirangi Roads. Influenced by American architectural trends both in its exotic, Spanish Mission style and comfortable appointment, it projected ideas linked with romance, a relaxing climate and higher-status living. Promoted as ‘A Castle on the “Fringe of Heaven”’, the building incorporated unusual features, including a dance floor laid on rubber buffers and piped music to all floors. It also had an electric lift, was centrally heated, and delivered hot and cold running water to every bedroom - a considerable luxury. A rooftop garden terrace and rear balcony at ground floor level enabled full appreciation of the views, while its drive-in basement garage was additionally an important feature for motorised guests. The building was erected by P. W. Peate, a specialist in concrete construction.
The hotel was opened in November 1930 by the leader of the Reform Party and former Prime Minister J. G. Coates. It soon became a destination, including for a driving party linked with the Dominion bowling tournament in 1931. It was not until that year, however, that the concrete road to the Titirangi Hotel was finally created. Before its completion, and as the economic depression worsened, Hotel Titirangi Limited went into liquidation. Similarly affected, F. O. Peat sold much of his collection to the Government in 1933, although this would not finally leave the Treasure House until nearly three years later. Many other tourist resorts in New Zealand likewise struggled to survive at this time.
Economic conditions began to improve by 1935-6, when alterations to Hotel Titirangi were carried out under lessees R. A. Nicolas and Company. In addition to extra bedroom accommodation, elements conceived as part of the earlier, curtailed design such as a lounge on the roof terrace, were added. The work was again undertaken by P. W. Peate but on this occasion overseen by notable architect Llewelyn S. Piper. In 1937, the first part of the popular Scenic Drive through the Waitākere Ranges opened, bringing an increasing number of motorised day-trippers to its starting point at Titirangi.
For a brief subsequent period, the hotel was run by Leonard James Shrubsall, an earlier director and mortgagor of Hotel Titirangi Limited, who recombined the Treasure House land with that of the hotel in 1937. Unable to obtain an alcohol license in ‘dry’ West Auckland, Shrubsall’s main source of income is said to have come from the tearooms. In an unsuccessful attempt to revive the building’s fortunes in 1939, the business was converted into the Titirangi Country Club, when dances were held. At least some of the latter may have been held in the former Treasure House, referred to as ‘an auxiliary dance hall.’ The latter had also been used as a polling station for parliamentary elections in 1938.
In 1942, at the height of the ensuing Second World War (1939-45), the entire property was acquired by the Government for conversion to a School for the Deaf.
Use as a School for the Deaf (1942), teaching facility (1960) and community centre (1983 onwards), and construction of Te Uru Gallery (2012-14)
Following its purchase, the Titirangi school formed just one of two such state institutions for deaf children in the country. Initially intended to be a temporary measure, it accommodated children who had previously been sent to the South Island for education - where premises at Sumner had been commandeered for war purposes. Established in 1880, the Sumner Deaf and Dumb Institution had been ‘the world’s first government-funded school for the training of deaf people who could not speak’, and from 1921 also had a satellite institution at Myers Park in Auckland. Educational approaches for much of the twentieth century in New Zealand relied on medical perspectives, focussing on teaching children to speak. Student immersion by institutionalisation in residential dormitory accommodation was also standard.
Alterations to the former hotel were immediately undertaken. Upstairs rooms were fitted up as separate dormitories for boys and girls, and the former Treasure House ‘next to the tennis courts’ converted to classrooms, at which time its windows may have been enlarged. Initially, some 60 to 70 children from throughout the North Island were accommodated. In the later 1940s, at least one student came from as far afield as Pitcairn Island. Expanding facilities prior to 1951 included another dormitory, classroom blocks and toilet blocks in the grounds. Other than accommodation and classrooms, the main building contained an assembly room, play room, sewing and hobby room, and staff facilities, as well as a kitchen, dining room, laundry and garage.
By 1950 the school had 134 attendees, of which 80 were boarders. Concern was expressed about conditions that had initially been intended as temporary. In 1948, the American educationalist and socialist, Helen Keller (1880-1968), who was herself both blind and deaf and a major campaigner for people with impairments, had visited the school. Alterations in 1953-4 included a small, soundproof room with sawdust-filled walls for audiometric testing and hearing aid instruction in the former hotel basement. In 1958-60, the school moved to new premises at Kelston.
The complex was subsequently converted to the Department of Education’s first residential centre for the in-service training of teachers. It was re-named Lopdell House to commemorate Frank Lopdell (1890-1960), a significant educational administrator who had successively served as principal of the Wellington Teacher’s Training College, superintendent of the Auckland region of the Department of Education and chief inspector of primary schools, as well as being the country’s first officer for in-service teacher training. Early courses included one to prepare teachers for work in the Pacific Islands. The former Treasure House evidently remained in use as a hall for instructional purposes, and had its floor upgraded in 1969. The teaching facilities were relocated to other institutions in 1982.
Following local pressure, the site was obtained by Waitematā City Council (later Waitākere City Council) for an intended district office, arts and community facility in 1983. This reflected Titirangi’s development as an artistic centre from the mid-twentieth century onwards, and its inhabitants’ subsequent desire for a cultural hub. Following establishment of the community-run Lopdell House Society, the main building was refurbished with alterations including a large dining room on the roof terrace and insertion of a theatre in the basement garage. The complex was formally re-opened by the Governor-General Sir Paul Reeve and other dignitaries in November 1986 as the Waitematā City Arts Centre - the main arts venue in West Auckland. In 1989, it became the Waitākere Arts and Cultural Centre. Managed by the Lopdell House Society until 2014, the complex contained the society’s main gallery space - known from 1994 as the Lopdell House Gallery - on the ground floor of the former hotel.
In the late 1980s, a statue of Henry Atkinson was added to the pavement at the junction of Titirangi and South Titirangi Roads. Initially erected by his family in 1922 on the top of Mt Atkinson, this structure was relocated after becoming a target for defacement. During the 1980s and 1990s, the former Titirangi Hotel was the subject for paintings by members of the Auckland artistic community, including by Peter Siddell (1935-2011), who was only the second New Zealand artist to be knighted. By 2011, the former hotel was considered ‘critical to Titirangi’s identity’.
Public concerns about the state of the buildings and the future of the activities that they housed led to vigorous community efforts to conserve the existing structures and create an art gallery of international standard on the site. Formed by community volunteers and other stakeholders, the Lopdell House Arts Development Trust (later Lopdell House Development Trust) oversaw the advancement of plans. In 2012-14 a leading practice in New Zealand architecture, Mitchell and Stout Architects, undertook extensive conservation and refurbishment of the former hotel and Treasure House. Alterations to the hotel included removal of post-1930 roof terrace elements, some reconfiguration of rooms especially at ground and first floor levels, conservation of significant internal elements including the electric lift and seismic strengthening. In 2015, the project was accorded a National Award by the New Zealand Institute of Architects for reasons that included its enhancement of the hotel’s landmark and other design presence, and use as a community facility.
In 2012-14, Mitchell and Stout also created a new, adjoining building of strikingly modern but sympathetic design to accommodate the Lopdell House Gallery, by now known as Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery. Linked to the former hotel by bridges at several levels, this new structure - abbreviatedly referred to as Te Uru Gallery - was likewise accorded a National Award in 2015. In its citation, the New Zealand Institute of Architects stated that ‘the transformational power of modern architecture can hardly be better illustrated than in this dramatic addition to the Titirangi village…The social effect on the local people is this building’s greatest achievement. It is surely rare for any new project to be so immediately valued and appreciated by its community’.
Retaining strong community connections, the place currently (2020) combines extensive use for public arts with retail facilities and office space for a variety of organisations and businesses.
The site is located in Titirangi, an outer suburb of west Auckland. Situated in the Waitākere Ranges, Titirangi is a predominantly residential area noted for its extensive views and surviving native bush. The business centre of Titirangi, or Titirangi village, on Titirangi Road occupies an elevated ridge with views to the south. At its west end it is overlooked by Mt Atkinson, where it also forms the gateway to Scenic Drive - an extended driving route through the Waitākere Ranges - and other routes with scenic appeal.
The place formed by the Titirangi Hotel (Former), Te Uru Gallery and the Treasure House (Former) visually dominates the western end of Titirangi village. Most other buildings within Titirangi Road’s commercial strip are relatively recent and smaller in scale. One older surviving structure is the former Titchener’s grocery store (c.1934). Formally recognised heritage places in wider Titirangi include the Titirangi Soldiers’ Memorial Church in Park Road, and residences at 2 Kohu Road and 11 Huia Road.
Immediately to the north of the Titirangi Hotel (Former), Te Uru Gallery and the Treasure House (Former) is the Soldiers’ Memorial Walkway, leading to the former site of Titirangi’s First World War Memorial. Donated by Henry Atkinson, this monument has been twice relocated and is now beside Titirangi Library in South Titirangi Road. The summit of nearby Mt Atkinson retains a concrete plinth that initially supported a statue to Henry Atkinson. An associated reserve, donated by the Atkinson family, also survives.
The place is situated on a corner site at the junction of Titirangi and South Titirangi Roads. It occupies land that slopes down steeply from high ground level with Titirangi Road towards a lower, flat area in the southern part of the site. The place contains three main buildings: the former Titirangi Hotel at the intersection of the two streets; Te Uru Gallery (more fully known as Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery), which sits alongside the former hotel on Titirangi Road; and the former Treasure House, a standalone structure in the southern part of the site, accessed from South Titirangi Road.
Land between these buildings is predominantly covered in tarmac for access and car parking purposes. An embanked area of trees and shrubbery probably post-dating the planting of a grassed bank in the mid-1960s is situated to the west of Te Uru Gallery on Titirangi Road. Mature native trees also line South Titirangi Road in the eastern part of the site, and two kauri are situated between the former Treasure House and south boundary. A large, mature English oak - perhaps pre-dating the 1950s and reflecting a garden during that period - is positioned immediately to the south of the former hotel building. Cypress trees immediately next to the east elevation are considered likely to have been planted in the early 1970s.
The site also includes public pavement on both Titirangi and South Titirangi Roads, which encompasses a statue of Henry Atkinson at the junction of the two streets.
Hotel Titirangi (Former)
The former Hotel Titirangi is a large structure of Spanish Mission design. The concrete and brick building is three storeys high on its main elevation to Titirangi Road, and incorporates an additional two basement levels on its south elevation, where the ground slopes away steeply. A prominent feature of the building is an elevated turret at its east end, overlooking Titirangi village. Both the turret and other elements associated the building’s flat terrace roof incorporate clay tiles, emphasising its exotic design.
The exterior of the building as initially designed is generally well-preserved. The main elevation to Titirangi Road incorporates numerous ornamented apertures at ground floor level, including an elaborate entrance to the initial hotel lobby near its east end and a more centrally located doorway, likely accessing original tearooms. An additional entrance near the west end is a more recent conversion from a window. Surrounds and fanlights to the initial doorways, and other decorative elements on the main elevation such as window architraves and grilles, are of exotic Spanish Mission type. A row of double-hung sash windows at second floor level are plainer and topped by a horizontal parapet.
The multi-angular east elevation incorporates numerous small leadlight windows linked with the main hotel staircase and bathrooms servicing the main floors. A fourth storey, topped with clay tiles, is linked with access to the roof terrace. Where the ground slopes away to allow basement access, there is a large entrance from South Titirangi Road leading to the former garage - an important feature linked with the prominence of motorised tourism in the Waitākere Ranges. The south elevation is plainer than the northern frontage but incorporates a large terrace above the basement floors, initially associated with adjoining tearooms and since enclosed - probably in the mid-1930s as tearoom and dining space expanded. As at the front, retained rows of double-hung sash windows above this level serviced individual bedrooms, and later, dormitories, and are topped by a parapet to the flat roof.
The building interior retains a considerable number of features linked with the early layout of the hotel and its relative luxuriousness. The ground floor lobby near the east end is associated with a hatched reception office, which contains an English-made ‘British Burnside’ safe, the Auckland agents for which were T. & S. Morrin and Fenwick Limited, as indicated by a metal plate on the door. More recent plaques in the lobby itself commemorate Frank Lopdell, and use of the site for the Titirangi School for the Deaf - the latter unveiled during 50th anniversary celebrations in 1992. Other spaces at ground floor level include the large former tea rooms, which incorporates a marble column and other ornamental flourishes. Smaller rooms at the front that initially held a post office and other facilities have been opened out and incorporated into the former space.
The upper floors are accessed by an elegant spiral staircase at the east end of the lobby, and a functioning early elevator. The latter incorporates elaborate interior detailing, including a small leadlight window. Both the first and second floors are serviced by central corridors, flanked by former bedrooms on each side - in some instances enlarged at a later date. Initial built-in wardrobes and wash basins survive. Separate bathrooms at the east end also remain, incorporating ceramic baths and basins, wall tiles and mosaic floors - indicating the relative luxuriousness of the establishment. A large, flat roof terrace accessed from an upper lobby offers spectacular views over the Manukau Harbour and beyond.
A large basement currently incorporates theatre facilities, but the concrete floor of the former garage remains evident. Evidence of formwork linked with building construction is also visible on exposed concrete walls. Similar evidence lies within the smaller sub-basement, where the nature of the aggregate used in concrete construction is visible in one part of the ceiling, forming a relatively unusual feature.
Treasure House (Former)
The former Treasure House is a single-storey building that combines symmetrical neo-classical and Arts and Crafts design elements. Rectangular in plan, it has a portico with a recessed porch and main entrance at its east end. Its simple, hipped roof is clad with Marseilles tiles and has wide projecting eaves with close-set rafters. The plastered building exterior is ashlar-scored to imitate monumental stonemasonry. A projecting string-moulding extends around all four exterior elevations at lintel level.
The front (east) elevation incorporates portico columns of Tuscan style. These partially enclose a narrow porch running the full width of the building. The porch interior contains string-moulding at the same level as on the exterior walls, and incorporates a ceiling of rectangular-panel design. The centrally-positioned entrance to the building interior is of wide, double-door type. It is surrounded by a moulded architrave, which also encloses a blocked-in top light above the doorway.
The two side elevations are of almost identical design. Each incorporates five windows, originally small and square to restrict light entering the initial museum space and viewing from outside, but later enlarged for use as classrooms by cutting each sill down to a lower height. The two-light framing and most of the moulded architraves of the initial windows has been retained. On the south wall, one of the windows has been cut down more substantially to create a secondary door. The rear wall contains two window apertures of square design and their associated architraves, although at least one post-dates initial construction in 1926.
The building interior contains a large, open room occupying most of the building footprint. This has plain skirting and a ceiling of square-panel design. A new floor has been laid over pre-existing joists. Four smaller rooms at the rear, accessed from two doors in the main room, contain kitchen and bathroom facilities.
Te Uru Gallery
Te Uru Gallery is a visually striking building of modern design. It is attached to the former Hotel Titirangi by several sky bridges but otherwise reads as a distinctive and separate structure. It has a rectangular footprint, but incorporates a variety of both curved and rectilinear shapes in its external and internal design - many of them influenced by elements from New Zealand’s natural and cultural heritage. Occupying a steeply-sloping site, the six-storey structure reaches the same height as the adjoining hotel building. It is of concrete, steel and glass construction, with pre-painted aluminium panel cladding.
The main elevation faces northward to Titirangi Road. The green, metal-clad exterior incorporates a curved façade at its east end and an inward diagonal at its west. A glass canopy extends out from the curvilinear element to provide shelter over the pavement leading to the main central entrance, which is set at an angle. The entire elevation is capped by a strong horizontal lintel, reflecting the parapet of the adjoining hotel building. A narrow vertical window pierces the overall elevation near its eastern end.
The west elevation incorporates three storeys above street level, and three levels below. Two of the lower storeys are lit by a large rectangular recess containing glass windows. This and other elements, such as a strip of windows with canopy at an upper floor level, break up the façade and provide visual interest. The south or rear elevation is more complex. This incorporates raised concrete footings with basement access; a cantilevered staircase enclosed in glass incorporating diagonal bars, and creating an overall projecting mass of irregular rectilinear shape; and other cantilevered elements. The east elevation incorporates sky bridges connecting the building to floors in the former Hotel Titirangi, situated at the same upper levels.
Internally, the building contains teaching, workshop and service spaces in its lower storeys, and gallery spaces above. In its 2015 national award citation, the New Zealand Institute of Architects noted that: ‘Te Uru acknowledges the street with a powerful façade and a well-formed entry that leads the visitor through an engaging series of galleries, each linked by dramatic vertical spaces. This journey reaches something of a climax when the vista to the south is revealed with theatrical and arresting effect.’ These views are gained from the glassed-in staircase at the rear, which feature angled windows referencing prominent artist Colin McCahon. McCahon painted cubist views of the Manukau Harbour, which can be seen through the windows. The building interior also incorporates other elements of striking design, including staircases and skylight windows influenced by the curvilinear outlines of Māori waka (canoes). A spiral staircase in the northeast corner references a similar feature at the east end of the former Hotel Titirangi interior.
Henry Atkinson statue
The stone statue consists of a full-size representation of Henry Atkinson. This stands on a small, double-stepped plinth of the same material bearing his name in large lettering. The whole sits on a larger square plinth of more recent origin. The latter bears a metal plaque, possibly removed from the monument’s earlier plinth on Mt Atkinson.
The representation of Atkinson is relatively informal, showing him in a standing pose looking into the distance. He is without a hat and wears an unbuttoned jacket. His left hand is in his trouser pocket, while the other rests on the top of a tree stump. The latter may symbolise the brevity of life, although it could also have been chosen due to Atkinson’s interest in preserving areas of native bush.
The plaque on the plastered lower plinth states:
A PIONEER IN
THE PRESERVATION OF
NATIVE BUSH PARKLANDS
AND WATERFRONT CATCHMENT AREAS
IN THE WAITAKERES
High-quality resort hotels from the 1920s and 1930s
The former Hotel Titirangi is one of relatively few high-quality resort hotels of 1920s and 1930s construction that survive in New Zealand. A major other remaining example is the larger and more luxurious Grand Chateau or Chateau Tongariro, built in the Tongariro National Park in 1929 (List No.7318, Category 1 historic place). The Hanmer Lodge (List No.3685, Category 2 historic place), erected in the early 1930s in connection with the thermal resort at Hanmer, also survives although it was extensively damaged by fire in the 1950s. Substantial additions of similar date (1928) exist at the Waitomo Hotel (List No.4176, Category 2 historic place), initially erected in 1908 beside the glow-worm attractions at Waitomo Caves. Collectively reflecting a shift away from colonial or European prototypes, these structures are characterised by North American architectural styles – American Colonial Revival at the Grand Chateau, and Spanish Mission at Titirangi, Hanmer Springs and the Waitomo extensions. Of the latter, the former Titirangi Hotel can be considered a particularly impressive, cohesive and well-preserved surviving example.
Other remaining resort hotels from the same period include the Fox Glacier Hotel (1928; List No.5045, Category 2 historic place), now the only remaining example of the original tourist hotels of the West Coast glacier region. A large timber hotel linked with the thermal pools at Te Puia Springs, completed in the mid-1930s (List No.3494, Category 2 historic place), also survives. Numerous additional major resort hotels erected or substantially enlarged during this period have been largely or fully demolished. These include The Hermitage at Aoraki Mt Cook (built as an Arts and Crafts structure in 1914 with additions in 1924, and replaced in the 1950s), and the Milford Hotel (initially erected in 1928, and largely rebuilt after major fires in 1950 and 1959).
Surviving hotel buildings in use as resort accommodation during the 1920s but erected at an earlier date include the Grand Hotel or Grand Tavern at Te Aroha (1880-81; List No.762, Category 1 historic place), and the Princes Gate Hotel (formerly Central Hotel, Waihī) (1897; List No.788, Category 2 historic place). A number of later resort hotels connected with the Tourist Hotel Corporation, created in 1955, survive.
Architectural designs by W. S. R. Bloomfield, and Mitchell and Stout Architects
The place known as Hotel Titirangi (Former), Te Uru Gallery and the Treasure House (Former) is significant for incorporating architectural creations by several notable designers including W. S. R. Bloomfield, and Mitchell and Stout Architects.
The Hotel Titirangi can be considered one of the most significant surviving works by W. S. R. Bloomfield. It is one of a relatively small group of impressive remaining structures created by Bloomfield in the Auckland area. Among these, the Chicago-style Yorkshire House (1926-8; List No.106, Category 1 historic place) has been referred to as ‘probably his best known and one of his most highly regarded buildings’. Both Yorkshire House and the Spanish Mission style Hotel Titirangi have been singled out for particular mention as landmark projects. Both can be seen to demonstrate Bloomfield’s mastery of American architectural styles – perhaps reflecting his training at the University of Pennsylvania before the First World War. However, versatility appears to have been a feature of his work. Other notable Bloomfield designs erected in late 1920s and early 1930s Auckland include the ornate, neo-Classical Masonic Temple in St Benedicts Street (1929-30; List No.7367, Upper Symonds Street Historic Area); the Arts and Crafts St Augustine’s Church in Devonport (1930; List No.4529, Category 2 historic place) and the neo-Georgian Station Hotel in Beach Road (1930; List No.657, Category 2 historic place) which also incorporates Art Deco detailing. Other known surviving buildings include the Queens Arcade (1928-9) and the Arts and Crafts-style Binney House in Parnell (1935; List No.595, Category 2 historic place). The Hotel Titirangi is the most important of Bloomfield’s currently known works to have been carried out in Spanish Mission style.
Mitchell and Stout Architects has gained awards for many of its building projects, reflecting the partnership’s important contribution to late twentieth- and early twentieth first-century architectural practice in New Zealand. Through the accolade of National Awards, the New Zealand Institute of Architects has recognised projects that include the Tauranga Art Gallery (Public Architecture, awarded 2009); the Waiheke Island House (Residential Architecture – Houses, awarded 2011); Te Uru Gallery (Public Architecture, awarded 2015); the former Hotel Titirangi or Lopdell House (Heritage, awarded 2015); and the Belmont Garden Room (Housing - Alterations and Additions, awarded 2016). The Auckland City New Gallery gained a Supreme Award in 2001. Two earlier Supreme Award winners involving David Mitchell also received Enduring Architecture awards, namely the University of Auckland’s School of Music (awarded 1986 and 2013) and the Gibbs House (awarded 1985 and 2015). The partnership’s conservation and refurbishment of the former Hotel Titirangi or Lopdell House can be considered the practice’s best-recognised and most important contribution within a heritage conservation context. Te Uru Gallery is one of several major contributions in the area of public architecture, and specifically gallery construction. The two combined form a significant legacy connected with New Zealand’s cultural past and present.
Construction of tea kiosk. Later removed
Statue – Original construction on Mt Atkinson
Construction of Souvenir Shop. Later removed.
Demolished - Redevelopment
Demolition of Tea Kiosk
Construction of Hotel
1935 - 1936
Eight bedrooms, three bathrooms and billiard room added; new lounge provided on roof terrace; enlargement of tearoom and dining room by enclosing the former rear terrace, and conversion of shop into dining room for private parties
Conversion of Hotel and Treasure House for use as School for the Deaf
Demolished - Redevelopment
Hotel and Treasure House – Removal of nearby structures including dormitories, classrooms and toilet blocks
Hotel: Extension of lounge on roof terrace, conversion of ground floor window on north elevation to a doorway, and other alterations
Statue – Relocated to current site from Mt Atkinson
2012 - 2014
Hotel: refurbishment including reconfiguration of some rooms on the ground and first floors, and removal of structures on the roof terrace. Also seismic strengthening.
2012 - 2014
Treasure House: new floorboards, conservation of roof and drainage remediation
2012 - 2014
Construction of Te Uru Gallery
6th November 2020
Report Written By
17 Dec 1926, p.10; 19 Nov 1929, p.9.
Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Renwick, William, 'Lopdell, Francis Cecil', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4l12/lopdell-francis-cecil (accessed 3 June 2020).
Bonny, Marc, Titirangi: Fringe of Heaven, (eds Harvey, Bruce and Trixie Harvey), Auckland, 2011
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald
16 Dec 1926, p.17; 20 Nov 1930, p.16
Archifact Limited, 2008
Archifact Limited, ‘Conservation Plan: Lopdell House and precinct including Lopdell Hall’, Auckland, 2008.
Buffett, Peter, Lopdell House and a History of the Hotel Titirangi, Auckland, 1986.
Macdonald and Kerr, 2009
Macdonald, Finlay and Ruth Kerr, West: The History of Waitakere, Auckland, 2009.
Sollitt-Morris, Lynnette, Atkinson Park and Life at Paturoa Bay, 1910-1980: A History of Atkinson Park and the Titirangi Beach Community in Titirangi, West Auckland, Auckland, 2015.
Walsh, John, William Bloomfield: Architect – Hotel Titirangi, Auckland, 2018.
Auckland Council Cultural Heritage Inventory: Computer Nos. 3771 Lopdell House / Lopdell Hall; 3394 Kendokan Judo Club; 19624 Oak.
A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from the Northern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.
Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, regardless of whether they are entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or not. Archaeological sites include ‘places associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand’. This List entry report should not be read as a statement on whether or not the archaeological provisions of the Act apply to the property (s) concerned. Please contact your local Heritage New Zealand office for archaeological advice.