Learning with Lutyens: Noel Bamford and the Design of Ngahere, Auckland (1907)

Barnes, Anthony

Ngā Pūtahitanga / Crossings: A Joint Conference of SAHANZ and the Australasian UHPH Group

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Architects F. Noel Bamford (1881-1952) and A.P. Hector Pierce (1879-1918) both worked in Edwin Lutyens’ London office before establishing their Auckland partnership in 1907. Just prior to the formation of the partnership, Bamford designed a house called Ngahere in the Auckland suburb of Epsom.

Ngahere is known as an early and important example of Arts and Crafts architecture in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is a novel application of the butterfly plan, with a dominant central section and two articulated wings. Although built in timber on a foundation of basalt, like some larger villas in surrounding Mount Eden, in its plan and form it was unlike any other house in Auckland.

This paper explores the design of Ngahere considering Bamford’s knowledge and experience of Arts and Crafts architecture, including that gained during his time in Lutyens’ office. It asks whether this house is true to the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement as conceived in England, using pre-industrial forms, traditional construction methods and hand-crafting, or shows evidence of other geographical paths of the Arts and Crafts movement such as the United States and Australia. Additionally, it asks whether aspects of the house relative to planning (including relationship to the site), built form, materials and detailing are reflected in later Bamford and Pierce houses, or more widely in Arts and Crafts houses in the Auckland region.

The paper shows that while Bamford’s time in Lutyens’ office apparently provided him with a repertoire of design skills and ideas, it did not render him an acolyte. Rather, Ngahere included clear references to the broader architectural lineage and direction of the Arts and Crafts movement in England and beyond, apparent in the ways the house responds to its site and context, including the visual and physical relationships between indoor and outdoor spaces.