For several decades last century Levin was the home of an ambitious Chinese architect who turned to painting in retirement.

Rosanno Fan or Ming Ching Fan was born in mainland China.

His father was also an architect, who ran into trouble with the authorities in China after the Cultural Revolution. Fan grew up and lived in Hong Kong in 1963 when he met his Levin market gardener wife Mary Sue.

56a Highbury Drive, Levin, built in 1974 and designed by Rosanno Fan. Photo / Philip Armitage
56a Highbury Drive, Levin, built in 1974 and designed by Rosanno Fan. Photo / Philip Armitage

He moved to Levin shortly afterwards and eventually set up practice as a residential architect in Levin, after first working for a Palmerston North firm run by David Taylor. In retirement he moved his family to Wellington, where he began painting.

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He has been reported as having had plenty of ambition, wanting to be New Zealand's alternative to France's Le Corbusier or America's Frank Lloyd Wright. He spent some time in the US studying local architecture.

Richard Riddiford made a documentary about Fan in 2011, who had had several exhibitions of his paintings by then. Fan also spend some time in China. Many of his paintings are in private collection in both New Zealand and China.

Gallery owner Dylan Potocki is quoted on Art Access Aotearoa as saying, "For more than 50 years, Rosanno Fan lived in this country as a Chinese New Zealander.

He said that in effect, Fan was a dissident of the Communist regime and this was reflected in his works.

56a Highbury Drive, Levin, built in 1974 and designed by Rosanno Fan. Photo / Philip Armitage
56a Highbury Drive, Levin, built in 1974 and designed by Rosanno Fan. Photo / Philip Armitage

He said Fan was able to do what he could not have done in China.

"He rode by himself, to his own rules, yet still rode alongside some of the greats in New Zealand art and architecture: Toss Woollaston, Roger Walker and Ian Athfield among them."

Potocki said they admired and supported this "complex Van Gogh-like character".

"I believe that because of his self-destructive, complex nature, Rossano is one of the undiscovered New Zealand greats of recent times."

One of the homes Fan built in Levin is currently for sale and will go to auction on June 26. Harcourt real estate agent Brian Bernon said the 1974 home at 56a Highbury Drive, at the end of a long driveway, has plenty of unique features.

"It has a high-pitched roof and is made of concrete block, using a Chinese style of pointing.

"The front door has a carport over it, ensuring that it is not basking in bright light. The stained glass window beside it makes for a nice effect inside."

56a Highbury Drive, Levin, built in 1974 and designed by Rosanno Fan. Photo / Philip Armitage
56a Highbury Drive, Levin, built in 1974 and designed by Rosanno Fan. Photo / Philip Armitage

"It is a great family home with separated spaces for parents and children. The master bedroom is off the hallway near the front door."

From the front door there is access to the right to lounge and dining, then a corridor to the family room.

"Two more bedrooms and a bathroom are accessed through the family room. There is also a separate study with a sun-drenched mezzanine floor."

The 1000sq m section, a lot of it taken up by the driveway, has a number of native trees as well as fruit trees.

Other Levin houses known to have been built by Rossano Fan are on Arapaepae Rd and Kennedy Drive.