I’m from Pomahaka, West Otago and grew up on a farm. We moved to Ohoka in North Canterbury when I was eight, again to farm. At high school I was mainly into art and maths. Architecture seemed like the way to mesh the two together.

When I finished seventh form I had a job as a structural draughtsman. The New Zealand economy was just starting to recover from the 80’s crash so I was happy to be working full-time while studying part-time at CPIT (now the Ara Institute). The qualification started as a New Zealand Certificate in Draughting (Architecture) but became a National Diploma of Architectural Technology.


I learnt mostly at the coalface from colleagues at Warren and Mahoney, from clients, and from the builders on site. I continue to learn from the people I work with and will do forever. I set up my private practice in 2003 due to the amount of work I was doing outside of the office (which you could do back then). I had a good client base and could concentrate on my own work.

I’m influenced by all types of architecture and like adapting my designs to suit clients and the specific environment. You need to understand the past to progress into the future. We are currently working on heritage buildings as well as modernist designs.

I prefer to work on architecture that’s emotionally rewarding. This is predominantly residential but small commercial projects can also be extremely worthwhile. I want to leave a legacy of high quality buildings that enrich lives – buildings that stay relevant.

There is a lot of psychology involved in finding out what’s needed to help people through their built environment. I concentrate on trying to understand my clients. Recently I told my clients all feedback will make the design better so they could be brutal – I have thick skin. They asked if this was something I was taught at university. It is not!

A well-designed building can improve people’s mental and physical health. It is immensely satisfying to design something that looks good and has such a positive effect on people’s lives. 

AS TOLD TO Andrew Wood PHOTO Diederik Van Heyningen