One of Mt Albert’s most distinguished homes has sold under the hammer, bringing claps of joy from the woman who has lived there for the last 70 years.
The Basil Hooper-designed home at 40 Kitenui Ave, known for decades as “the house on the corner”, sold at auction last night for $1.82m (against a 2014 capital value of $1.38m).
The owner was just five-years-old when she arrived with her parents shortly after the end of the Second World War – and she was there, supported by neighbours, at the Anne Duncan Real Estate auction rooms to watch as the grand old property passed into new hands.
Her response: a wide smile and furiously clapping hands. She lived at 40 Kitenui Ave for all those years with her mum and dad and the sale was forced by her declining health.
Bidding opened at $1.5m and reached reserve of $1.8m with four or five bidders in the action.
The house at the corner of Oakfield Ave sits on 984sq m and was described by the auctioneer “as close to original and unmolested as you could hope to find”.
It was built for J. T. Wallett in 1924, across the road from another of Hooper’s local masterpieces, and became part of the celebrated ensemble of Mt Albert homes bearing his architectural stamp.
Mary Inomata, wrote in a Mt Albert Historical Society newsletter: “The entry porch ‘articulation’ is a very good example of how Hooper reduced the entry to human scale by using a low, stepped roof and the wooden brackets to reduce the apparent height of the supporting walls. The diamond shaped windows are one of Hooper’s hallmarks in the North Island. I adored this house the first time I saw it and became a Hooper fan from then on.”
Hooper, a towering figure in New Zealand architecture, was born in India in 1876 and his missionary parents sent him and his brothers to seek a better life in Cambridge, New Zealand, in the care of his Aunt Bessie.
A year later Basil’s mother died of malaria and his father William and sister joined the rest of the family in Cambridge.
In 1887, says Mary Inomata, William took up an appointment at St Luke’s Church in Mt Albert – a church that Basil had a hand in remodelling half a century later.
The young Hooper had always wanted to be an architect and boarded in Dunedin for four years before travelling to England to study and gain experience. He arrived back in Dunedin in 1904 aged 28 and set up his own architectural office.
He designed houses in Dunedin, other parts of Otago and Timaru before he shifted his family to Auckland in early 1923 to go into practice with J. W. Rough.
Mary wrote that Hooper’s buildings achieve harmony and balance despite quite complex roof geometry and varied fenestration. The interiors are well lit and airy as he always made the most of available sun and view.
Unlike some Arts and Crafts architects, Hooper felt ‘a little ornament is a good thing…’ as long as it was appropriately scaled and the outcome of this belief is clearly visible in many of his designs.
Hooper used a number of decorative motifs throughout his career that – along with certain particulars of planning – are used to identify his work around New Zealand.
Other examples of Hooper’s design work in Mt Albert are 2 Oakfield Ave, 7 Ferner Ave, 42 Allendale Rd, 5 Summit Dr and 23 Mt Albert Rd. All were built between 1924 and 1938.