The life of Basil Hooper

Basil Brumston Hooper

Basil Bramston Hooper was born in Lahore, India in 1876, the youngest of eight boys and one girl in the family of William and Elizabeth (nee Bramston). In 1885 his parents sent Basil and his brothers to live in New Zealand under the care of their Aunt Bessy. Hooper finished school at the North Island town of Cambridge at the age of 16 and began work with a builder named White. Hooper then decided to make a career of architecture and went to Auckland at the age of 19 to complete his secondary education. Hooper gained a place as an articled pupil with James (Louis) Salmond in Dunedin but saw limited opportunity in the architectural classes offered in Dunedin and so left New Zealand in 1901 to study in England.

During his time in England Hooper worked in the architectural offices of Professor Arthur Beresford Pite and E. P. Warren, and the London City Council’s Architects’ Department Housing Branch. Pite was an original and theoretically advanced architect who also taught at the Royal College of Art. Hooper worked for the City Council for 15 months, while working towards the intermediate Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) examinations. During 1903, Hooper studied for and in 1904 passed the last of the RIBA examinations. He returned to Dunedin in late 1904 at the age of 28 and set up his own architectural office. In 1909 Hooper married Edith Jessie Seldon and they had three children together, Aston, Joan and Sylvia. From 1916 to 1921 Hooper taught at the Dunedin School of Art’s Department of Architectural History and Design, and held several offices in the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

The Hooper family moved to Auckland in 1923 where Hooper sent up a partnership with J. W. Rough as Rough and Hooper. Invercargill born Rough began his architectural career in the Manawatu in 1906. He opened an office in Invercargill in 1911 and travelled to England to continue his training in 1914. His studies were halted by the war and he served as a engineer with a field company in Flanders. Promoted to Captain in the Royal Engineers, Rough visited Paris after the war before returning to New Zealand in 1920. He reestablished his practice in Eltham where he specialised in concrete construction, designing dairy factories and commercial buildings. Rough and Hooper had offices in Auckland and Onehunga from where they ran a varied practice ranging from large factories and warehouses to suburban houses. A keen golfer and sportsman, Rough was careless in business and was made bankrupt. He left again for England in 1929 and the partnership was dissolved amid acrimony over the firm’s debts.

After a series of unfortunate business decisions and the dearth of work during the depression, Hooper went on to work as a freelance assistant before his retirement in 1949. Nevertheless, Hooper undertook a number of important commercial buildings in the city as well as the domestic projects he is better known for. These included modern warehouses and offices in the Anzac Avenue area. Upon retirement Hooper was awarded life membership of the NZIA and this, along with his glowing obituary upon his death in 1960, demonstrated his high status amongst his peers.

For a more in-depth biography go to Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

To read more about Hooper’s Dunedin home go to “Harptree” Roslyn, Dunedin

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