Share article


We notice you're trying to make a purchase from outside of New Zealand.
If you would like to place an order, please email full details to

Thank you,

New Zealand Institute of Architects








Andrew Patterson, in conversation

Gold Medal interview

Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth by Patterson Associates.

Photo by Patrick Reynolds

John Walsh: Can we start with some background, Andrew – where are you from?

Andrew Patterson: My family is from the King Country, on my father’s side. I’m a fourth generation New Zealander – fifth, according to some accounts. On both sides my family were from the professional class, either lawyers or doctors.

Where did you go to school?

I was sent to boarding school in Auckland, to Kings College.

What did you make of that?

I really enjoyed it. It was a real privilege going there.

What engaged you, when you were growing up? Was architecture an influence or interest?

My grandfather on my father’s side, who was a solicitor, translated Latin manuscripts as a hobby, which isn’t a hobby I would have. I remember, when I was just starting out in architecture, sitting with him – he was 86 or 87 – and he asked me about the tests for architecture. I said, “Well, there’s Vitruvius’ test. It’s Latin, so you’ll probably be interested in it – firmitas, utilitas and venustas”.

Oh, yes – firmness, commodity and delight.

And he said, “Well, venustas does not mean beautiful or delight, generally – it’s the specific Latin word for the delight of the natural world. If you wanted to say a painting was delightful or beautiful you’d use a different word.” That was influential for me because, if you look at it, what Vitruvius was really saying is that the test for architecture is that it’s as good as the natural world. One thing that was interesting about my upbringing, architecturally, was our family bach at Kāwhia, that almost bordered on the marae. My grandparents spent a lot of time at Kāwhia, and were quite involved in Māori culture there.That had an effect on me. I think Kāwhia gave me a lifelong sympathy for biculturalism, which is what New Zealand in my generation has been all about.

I made a decision quite early on not to go overseas and not to travel because I worked out that most buildings in New Zealand were bad copies of buildings in other countries and I didn’t want to be influenced that way.

Just to rewind a bit, why did you go to architecture school?

I always wanted to be an architect; there was no question of that.

My father, as well as being a doctor, developed property, so our family had quite an interest in that. I was interested in that, and was never interested in anything else. My father wanted me to do medicine and he shouted me a car on the basis that

I went down to Otago (University) and did an intermediate in medicine, following in his and his brother’s footsteps. I only just managed to make sure my grades were not quite good enough for medicine or law but easily good enough for architecture, and so I was able to come up to Auckland in the second year and do architecture, and keep the car!

Who was teaching at the Auckland School when you started?

David Mitchell and Claude Megson were there. Alan Wild was just tailing off. They were all great influences.

I was very lucky because in my second-to-last-year, or maybe it was my last year, Nigel Horrocks decided he wanted to build a house on a piece of land at Karekare and he came into the Architecture School and said to the dean, “I want to employ your best student to do this house, because it’s going to be a masterpiece.” Fortunately for me the best student was an overseas student but I was Johnny-on-the- spot, so I was able to get my first house commission.

It was quite a major house. I started the job not knowing what I was doing at all. I didn’t have any draughting experience and had never even worked for a construction firm. I designed the Karekare [Horrocks] House and then, after I left Architecture School, I joined a small, sole practitioner firm, purely to finish that house. I finished it within a few months of graduating and it got built, which was remarkably quick. Normally you have to wait about 10 years before you get a building that you’re responsible for from go to whoa.

Was this a case of bluff it until you can do it?

Well, you do need to have a certain amount of entrepreneurial confidence, and you find expertise as you can.The house is still standing, and I still get a job off it every now and again.

After Architecture School who did you work for?

I worked briefly for a guy called Mike Lee in Orākei. He welcomed my one house in and he was able to help me with it. Then I worked in quick succession for two developer firms – it was in the middle of the pre-’87 boom.The day I got registered I handed in my notice.

And then what?

I’d put the Horrocks House (1986) into the then-equivalent of the Home of theYear competition which had a lucrative travel prize. I won the competition, and won it another couple of times in quick succession. Finally I had to go overseas. So, from saying I’m not going to travel, and I don’t want to be influenced by overseas architecture and just want to do New Zealand vernacular, suddenly I’m a mad traveller. One year, I did America from Guatemala right up to Chicago, and another year I did NewYork for a month, and another year I did Italy and the main European capitals.

Did these trips change things for you?

I became enamoured with going back to the root of architecture. I wanted to find the universal in architecture because it seemed to me that European architecture, which I had been subjected to and which New Zealand has, is really just historical style. Ultimately, in my view, it would go nowhere because it was just a conversation with itself – architecture as a conversation with culture. But modern culture is just a fleeting construct – it changes every year. I don’t think it’s a good basis for the design of a building that you expect to last 100 years.

Did you make a conscious decision to stay here and work in a bi-cultural environment?

Yes, but the value that I saw in Māoridom contrasted with the value I saw in the European or pakeha tradition because Māoridom is an earth culture and its architecture has a direct relationship to land. For me architecture is just taking a piece of land and remodelling it for people. Architecture and land to me are conceptually inseparable. Inevitably, the most universally admired architecture is that which is based on a connection with the land. If you look at the ruins of a temple in Greece you’ll see it’s basically just the rock that it’s sitting on, hollowed, carved out and reassembled, growing straight out of the ground.There are very few people who don’t believe that that such a building is intrinsically beautiful – it’s land based.

And the same goes with the Mayan citadel at Tikal in Guatemala, with its grand procession and pyramids carved right out of the limestone that it sits on.The main moves are all there. It grows straight out of the rocks. It has a movement or procession through it, with vision statements carefully arranged. It has crescendos and lookouts and spatial variety, all in a culture that had no connection at all with other cultures in the world, but they all do exactly the same thing. It uses all of the same tricks, and so do buildings of mine like Geyser (2012).The basic language is all the same.That’s what I liked about the building culture of the Māori, too – it’s as close to the earth as you can get.

You mentioned beauty. I thought it was interesting that at the 2017 NZIA conference several presenters talked about beauty. I hadn’t heard architects talking about beauty so openly before.

I’m very interested in beauty. Most spiritual traditions think of beauty as a piece of consciousness.That is, a landscape is beautiful because it was created by God.The pragmatist in me agrees that recognisable authorship is a critical component of beauty – ‘He tangata, he tangata, he tangata’.

We recognise the distinctive pattern of human consciousness and find this beautiful. That’s why design by committee rarely produces a beautiful building. An ideology – which is just automated thinking – can’t produce beauty, either. For me, this is the reason architecture is important.

So, is beauty an architectural goal?

No, beauty is a test. There has been quite a bit of research done on beauty lately. Darwinists believe it is an evolutionary response, like a fear response, and others say that beauty is merely in the eye of the beholder. Scientist Joan Gell, who famously predicted the Higgs boson 25 years before it was discovered, calls beauty “the definitive test of a scientific theory”. Modern research suggests that the experience of beauty is a cognitive pattern in your brain, a kind of model. Some models are universal. Everybody sits on a beach and looks at a sunset and says it’s beautiful. And the winding path into a heavenly valley framed by the mountains, a vision of a promised land – that’s a universal pattern in the human brain.

For many, maybe for most New Zealanders, beauty firmly resides in the natural world.

Yes, it does.

And, if you left it to some New Zealanders, ideally there’d be no buildings.

We can’t survive without a built environment and the truth is that we use it much more than the natural environment. But what the Māori worldview does for me, through its creation story, is say that you are

a natural child of the sky and the earth.You are as natural to the planet as the birds and the rocks and the trees – you, and your buildings, have just as much right to be here.That’s a really positive outlook, especially for an architect because it enables you to inhabit the environment with confidence. If you’re a natural part of the planet, so are your buildings. Buildings are really just physical extensions of ourselves.

In New Zealand, you’re faced with some unbelievably beautiful settings. In most Western countries you wouldn’t be able to build in them. I’ve given presentations at the World Architecture Festival where the jury just cannot believe that we were allowed to build where we did.They can’t get past that hurdle to actually get into the architecture – they’re aghast that you’d be able to build in such a beautiful spot. The thing about Māori culture is that it gives you the philosophical confidence to say that buildings are part of the natural environment, and Vitruvius is probably saying the same thing. Buildings should be tested against the natural environment, and buildings should be as good as the natural environment.

If we can return to your career narrative – what happened after the 1987 Crash?

I had got my first reasonably sized job – 25 standalone houses around a square in Ponsonby.The developer settled on the site on the day of the ’87 crash, poor guy. We built one house as a demonstration home, and it took a while, but we ended up building the whole 25 units over the period of the recession. It kept the practice going. In the meantime,
that Karekare [Horrocks] House had become quite well-known because a famous band – Crowded House – was using it as a recording studio so we started to get housing jobs in dribs and drabs.

How did you come out of the Nineties? Did you achieve lift-off later in that decade?

I’ve never had kind of the big building lift that often you see in architectural practices. You could say that Jasmax lifted off as a practice when they got Te Papa.You could say that Architectus lifted off as a practice when they got the Science and Maths building at Canterbury University. And you could say the same about Warren Mahoney, and others. But we’ve just kind of been solid right the way through, I guess.We’ve never had one of those big lift-off projects.

Did you always want to work on a larger scale?

Not particularly – I’m happy to work on a gate. I’ve never been that interested in doing interiors, either, although sometimes I do them, because I just don’t have a brain big enough to fit in a palette of fabrics as well as building materials, and also I really like permanence.

I like to do permanent buildings. We don’t follow the current fashion of timber buildings so much because original timber buildings only last half a century, especially if they’re not painted.They’re just not going to be around, as good
as they are.They are beautiful, ethereal things, and they fit in with the whole idea of building in New Zealand but, personally, I’m more interested in permanency.

What was the next significant project after Horrocks House?

In terms of recognition it was the Knight Klisser House (1992) in Parnell, which was for a client whose hobby was playing the piano.The whole building is in a kind of eco-chamber valley, and the house is like a piano, really – symmetrical, with a keyboard, and because it’s in a south-facing valley it had a huge skylight dragging in light.

I think the next one was the Summer Street House (1993) in Ponsonby, which was for a Waikato farmer who wanted a ‘beach house’ in Auckland. He chose the most urban spot in the whole city at that point, and we put a bach on it using lots of Polynesian and earth culture ideas around a courtyard, like a little marae.

How were you getting work at this stage? What sort of people were coming to you?

We did a lot of developer work.

You could obviously handle that. Some architects can’t.

We don’t do so much developer work now, but then the whole practice was based on developer work. I could show you developer townhouses all over Auckland. It’s often much more difficult to do a very good architectural project with a developer client because the long-term and short-term aims aren’t aligned.

I really admire architects who can design – and get built – really good buildings for developer clients. It doesn’t happen that often.

Are you much engaged in multi-unit residential work now, in New Zealand?

We’re doing 300 units in Newmarket at the moment, and another 70 on another site.We’ve done quite a lot of apartments over the years. I guess our practice is interesting because it has a very broad section.We do civic, commercial development and residential.

How many people in your practice?

Twenty-five at the moment.

Is that big for your history?

We have gone to 32 before. I find that the wheels fall off at about 28 as the efficient business model in architecture really wants to then go up directly to 40.

When did the move to offshore work happen? That was in China, wasn’t it?

No, India first. We got an enquiry from India and did a big house there. We missed out on some Chinese work at first, but now have quite a strong portfolio there.

Was that a learning curve, learning how to operate there?

It was. A respectful learning curve, in that we’ve encountered some very intelligent and clever people in all walks of life there. I’ve found mainland China clients put a lot of reliance on a conceptual brain.They realise that a concept usually comes from a single point but the success of the concept, though, is massaging it out into a multi-headed thing that people can share. Of course, you’re dealing with Chinese government architects so you go there and you see a building that you’ve designed and it’s not quite the same building that you would have in New Zealand because of the lack of follow through.

Even in a small country like New Zealand, architectural practices have a brand or a persona that they project. What do you think yours is?

I have no idea.You’d probably have to ask somebody else.

But you are quite conscious of your legacy, aren’t you? You are interested in permanency, after all.

I’m just a pure architect, really. I believe in legacy buildings because I’ve done the figures.You can get all of the official Green Star points in the world and you’re only going to save two or three percent of the capital cost of a building per year. That means if that building needs replacing within 50 or 75 years all that good work is wasted.The sustainability benefits in architecture are products of longevity. If you build something properly and it lasts for 200 years with some minor refits that’s way more sustainable than anything you can do in terms of energy, carbon or water waste reuse. All of those things pale into insignificance besides longevity.

I’m a great believer in doing buildings that last. Often, they don’t last because they’re not made of quality materials. Or they don’t last because planning changes every seven years and then a building becomes unsuitable because somebody decides you can add more floor areas in that particular zone.The third reason that buildings don’t last is that they’re not attractive.They’re designed for a cultural moment that happened 25 years ago and no longer exists.

To get lasting buildings I believe it’s best to design for universal beauty rather than innovation or eye-of-the- beholder beauty or cultural beauty. You have to build them so they remain attractive and can be adapted for different uses. But the main thing you have to do is somehow find a planning profession that doesn’t change its mind every seven years. Creativity is quite a different thing from innovation. An innovative thing is replaced by the next technological leap. But the Sydney Opera House doesn’t imitate the Taj Mahal. It takes nothing from its attraction.

You have designed some of the most expressive buildings in Auckland over the past generation. How did buildings like D73 (1996), Cumulus (2003) and Geyser (2012) happen?

I’ve had very good clients. Many of the buildings you’re talking about were commissioned by Samson Corporation, which is a property owner not a property developer, with a 75-year horizon. If you can maintain your building as an A-grade building over 75 years it means an enormous amount of money, because the building is leased all the time, for the right money, and you don’t have to rebuild it every 25 or 30 years. When you’re dealing with clients who appreciate that, it’s much easier to do good architecture. Mind you, it hasn’t done us any good really because your average developer looks at Geyser and says, “My God, I could never afford that.” I say, “Well, when we first started working for (Samson Corporation’s) Michael Friedlander, he might have been number 35 or 40 on the National Business Review Rich List; now he’s number five or six. Maybe you should rethink that financial strategy you’ve got.” I just don’t think there’s an awareness in the European part of our country, which is quite young, about sustainability and the value of buildings as objects.

What sort of territory does your practice occupy, if you look at the terrain of New Zealand architecture?

There have been some very good architects, historically, in New Zealand, and of course we’re known for our housing. People tell me that we sit outside the Group House sort of tradition. I wonder about that.The roots of the Group house are deeply embedded in our work, but maybe it’s not so obvious. Identity is another earth culture idea which is intrinsic to our work. Nothing is as beautiful as people; this is part of what it is to be human. Identity ties back to the idea of a pattern in your brain and universal beauty taking advantage of that pattern. A way of getting there is going through the human form, sexually, because you’re wired to think that a curvaceous form is beautiful. It’s a very easy trick for an architect to make a building sexy in that way. But we also admire other human traits such as honesty, integrity and clarity.

Maoridom uses identity quite a lot. Patterns are created through identity. Everything is an identity. A mountain has an identity, a wharenui has an identity, a river has an identity. Even the sky and the earth have personal identities because it’s so much more powerful to create pattern out of a personal identity, especially in a culture that doesn’t have a written language in which you can tell a story. And to make a story interesting you’ve got to use identities.There’s no story without identities.

So, our buildings are always identities. Christchurch Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre (2013) is a cellulose cell of a plant. It’s in the same shape. In this case it’s conceived not as a human identity or an ancestor identity but as an identity that relates to the use and occupation of the building. Our Len Lye Centre (2015) is a wharenui for Len Lye. It is using the identity pattern of Len Lye to create a Len Lye building.

Do you see your buildings as built narratives? I’ve heard you talk several times, and the story of a building or project is obviously important.

Our buildings are sculptural narratives, but they’re conceptual narratives in that we hope you don’t have to
have them explained more fully. Understanding, say, a Michael Parekowhai sculpture often requires a handbook and the whole New Zealand upbringing. I’m just not interested so much in that. In architecture you don’t have the luxury of the handbook and the cultural familiarity. Especially on the international stage you just don’t have that luxury.

And a cultural innovation or narrative will date your building. It’s easy to design a building that links to spaceships, or in Le Corbusier’s time, automotive and machine production and the building will express a cultural narrative of its time, but as the cultural narrative moves on you’ll have to read a history book to be able to appreciate that building. For me, architecture is much more sustainable if it uses a narrative that is much more deeply embedded, and universally embedded, in people’s minds.

Connecting with the indigenous culture of this place can be tricky, architecturally speaking. In New Zealand the connection can seem weak or token – a matter of designers appropriating Māori motifs.

If it’s not linked to the conceptual it’s superficial in my view.The idea of a dimpled white golf ball wall behind the Michael Hill Golf Clubhouse (2008) is something that you can access immediately. But looking at the relevance of a triangular diamond pattern in the new Otahuhu train station? You need that video on the wall to tell you what it is.

Yes, you probably shouldn’t have to have the wall text.

Yes, it’s like basic science really in architecture. If you’re talking about surface decoration patterns, I’m in favour of having patterns that resonate commonly.

You’re not afraid of ornamentation, are you? 

No, I’m quite happy with ornamentation.We’ve done ornamental buildings.

How do you chose people who work for you?

We always try and get the top students.

And you have a strong record of getting them. A lot of talented people have worked for your practice.

And the best people are still here of course!

Let’s talk about the Len Lye Centre, which obviously is a significant project in the life of the practice. It is an amazing thing to have happened in New Plymouth – an extraordinary building for conservative, provincial New Zealand. How did it happen?

There wasn’t a competition. The client chose the architect in the way previous generations chose their architects, through interview. It wasn’t a stab in the dark.They got a shortlist of architects and researched all of them, and interviewed a dozen of them, and got the list down to three and interviewed those practices for half a day each, and then they chose. I think they chose us because our work resonated with Len Lye more than the other architects.

Do you think there was a crucial or resonant moment during your presentation?

No.We just put our work up there.We spent a lot of time on the presentation, but it would be nice if people’s work spoke for itself. The main problem with architecture is that its benefits are hard to measure and there’s no future for architecture unless it becomes measurable. Urban designers have got measurements, and planning’s extremely measurable. Architecture has lost its measurability.

How do you get on with planners, Andrew?

Good. It’s just a series of things you have to do.

Were you happy with how the Len Lye Centre turned out?

Yes. We didn’t leap into a design. We spent about three months before lifting a pencil, and then designed the building. And it’s exactly the same as the first concept sketch.

Did the clients want to create a ‘Guggenheim Bilbao effect’ with the building?

No, they wanted a really good building. It’s an inexpensive building. Len Lye is two-thirds the price of the other museums that have been done in the same decade. Its price per square metre was less than Te Uru in Titirangi and the Hawkes Bay Museum. Of course, it was way less than Auckland Art Gallery. It was an extremely economical building, it just looks expensive.

What’s on the horizon for the next few years?

I think it’s very important to have a balanced life. I’m not one of those architects whose whole life revolves around architecture. For instance, Ian Athfield – there wasn’t much in his life that wasn’t connected in some way to architecture, and that’s a great thing. I try not to let architecture consume me.

What other things do you like doing?

I love boating. I’ve got a house in the Bay of Islands. I travel a lot – I would go round the world three times a year.

For work or for pleasure?

When I can, I combine it. I’m interested in the arts. I ski a lot – even if I do say myself, I’m one of the best skiers I know! I’ve never really wanted to be too myopic.You can tie your personality into architecture, and you’ll get quite depressed
on occasions.

Are you a clubbable person?

How do you mean ‘clubbable’?

Do you like joining things?

Oh yeah, a bit. I belong to a few clubs, but not too many. One thing I try to is temper the ambition that all architects have with a few rules. I’m not going to discount our services to chase a big client. I’d much rather have a smaller job with a client
who comes and says, “I’ve seen this building of yours that I really like, and I’d like you to do our building.” This has been to our detriment a bit because our projects are client-led rather than marketing-led. But I just find it much more rewarding than begging somebody to do their work. We just don’t do that, and probably because of that we haven’t got into a lot of big education work or a lot of big corporate work. I’d rather go and design a garage than spend too much time schmoozing.

But people come to your door?

Oh, we’re busy, but I haven’t wanted to expand the practice to 60 people and have all that schmoozing infrastructure in place.

The position of architects in our society is interesting. If I can get more personal for a minute, there was an incident a couple of years’ ago that excited some of the media, in large part, it seemed, because you are an architect.

You mean my unfortunate incident with a cyclist?

Yes, the newspaper reports always managed to get ‘architect’ in the headline. What do you think is going on? Is it that architects are perceived as elitist?

You can navel gaze about it as much as you like.The profession is given to navel gazing and the public isn’t sure about what do we actually do. Architecture, from what I can see looking at historical records, has diminished dramatically over the past century. Architecture is a profession that’s thousands of years old. I remember Dave Mitchell saying to me, “We happen to be practising in the waning of the cycle.” And that’s true.

But you’re doing what you should be doing?

I really want to do as good a job as possible, and I like projects where the challenge is to make buildings as resilient and sustainable as possible. I like to find a beauty that is accessible to people.There’s very few people who go to Len Lye who don’t say it’s a beautiful thing. In fact, a highlight of my whole career in architecture occurred when I was walking into the Len Lye lobby and saw an old lady sitting on a chair inside the door, and she was crying. I went over and said, “Are you all right?” She said, “Oh, it’s just so beautiful.” If you can achieve a universal beauty that’s a pretty good test.

Is what you look for in a project an essential idea? Something you can expand upon and drive through a project? 

Yes, a conceptual core. Regardless of what the building’s doing, it can’t do it unless it has clarity. I can’t communicate with you with a whole lot of background noise or superfluous words, can I? Architecture is the same. Clarity is really important. I’ve been trying to get our buildings simpler and simpler over the years. It’s really easy to design complex buildings but the simpler they are the easier they are to build. And because they’re very buildable they’re economical, and because they’re simple they have clarity. People like them because they are not deafened or confused.

If you can find the single idea that creates a multitude of solutions, that’s really good.

And so, with Len Lye the colonnade is just one mould of concrete. On the outside it has some stainless steel hung on it, and on the inside it’s just concrete. But you approach this form from so many different directions because of our young history – we have these pre-cast plants through the middle of the North Island. Immediately we had a competitive bidding situation.

The building was much less expensive and it was very quick and easy to build because just use the same mould. We turned it upside down and roundabout. And the same thing with the stainless steel. Because of New Plymouth’s dairy and oil and gas industries there are about 10 stainless steel firms there, and huge stainless steel expertise. So it was just a no-brainer to use stainless steel, because they all want to show their grandchildren this building in the main street that they did, and you get a really competitive price.That ties in with Len Lye’s story – he was in New Plymouth for exactly the same reason. He wanted to build a big stainless steel sculpture, and New Plymouth was one of the best places in the world to do it.

The idea of a single thing happening and making perfect sense is beautiful in the same way that a mathematical equation is beautiful. If you can get architecture that has that symmetry of an equation you’re probably going to achieve sustainable or universal beauty rather than simply guidebook cultural beauty.

Have you ever engaged in the so-called ‘affordable’ end of the market?

I’d love to, but I just take whatever comes through the door, and what tends to come through is people who do their research and are clever. We do get a fair amount of wealthy clients, because they tend to do their research and be thorough and they’re clever and they appreciate good things. And so, you end up doing that rather than chasing affordable housing.

Does the practice then get used to working with a certain level of resource and budget?

I think we can work with any budget, it’s just that we’ve been lucky enough to have well-funded projects. But a lot of our buildings are much more economical than you might think, the Len Lye being a case in point. I’d like to do some more affordable housing.

I have done some. I did the same as Roger Walker from Wellington, in my early days, I had a building company and we did I think 17 affordable houses.

The houses are mainly in Mt Eden – I can show you some sometime.The housing company was successful enough but it was a road to nowhere because people would come in and say, “Oh yes, I’ll have one of those please,” and then they’d treat you like a regular architect and then by the time they’d finished it was a design build for a unique architectural home which is counter-productive to the whole system. So, that little experiment didn’t work. I’d really like to do some clever, affordable, permanent housing at some scale. It would be fantastic to do that.

That would be good, because it hasn’t been done very well here, has it?

It’s crazy how expensive buildings are here.The profession should be wading into this issue, really. We’re totally immersed in our narrative which is aesthetic.We could easily commission a report that explains quite clearly why in New Zealand it costs double to build. We could take a leadership position but we tend to concentrate on this huge treadmill of awards.

What are the main reasons why things are so expensive here? We have a unique Resource Management Act, which creates a whole stratum of the industry which doesn’t have anything to do with the actual building or the use of the building or the design of the building.The cost and time of going through our unique process as opposed going through the Australian process is, I suspect, really significant.The people who are setting and arbitrating the rules and the people they’re talking to in the private sector have nothing to do with buildings. If they have nothing to do with the design of buildings or the construction of buildings, how can they possibly make the rules? It’s really inefficient.

Another big thing at the moment is our constant tinkering with the payment of subcontractors.We’re legislating big construction companies out of existence. Increasingly, you can’t be a prime contractor in New Zealand. Project management rises and rises because that’s the only way you can build a building in this country.You can’t do a single prime contract anymore.

Are there any kind of projects you’d particularly like to do at the moment?

I would like to do a bit more in Auckland.We do a lot of work in Queenstown, some in Christchurch. We do a lot of work in Auckland, but I’d like to do more. I think Auckland lacks some legacy buildings. Everybody’s now very bullish about the city but it’s pretty thin.

Do you think Auckland needs a Len Lye Centre-type of project on the waterfront?

A Len Lye building in Auckland would be fantastic. I think the current optimism about Auckland is quite shallow. It could die very quickly. And as good as public spaces can be, and our public spaces are getting better and better, they are not architecture. They are not buildings. Buildings are permanent, public space changes. So, a few good buildings would be great. 

You’d like to leave your mark, Andrew?

No. I just want to a make a better place, a more beautiful place. New Zealand is beautiful in its natural environment, but we don’t have much to offer in a built environment.We’re getting better.

Other interviews