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Weekly Chew: Once a builder and now an architect, Logan Reilly says inspiration comes in all sorts of sizes

From unique baches to community centres, Logan Reilly of Logan Architects muses over creating exceptional spaces that each become dream commissions.

Who the heck are you?

I’m an architect who originally started out as a builder. From being a builder, I worked through as a draftsperson, designer and became a registered architect about 12 years ago in my early 30s.

You worked overseas for some time. What were you doing there?

I worked for various practices and projects in Australia, London and the US as well as spending a lot of time travelling. One of the more prominent firms I worked for in Frankfurt was Fosters, a well-known firm based in the UK. There, I was involved with some pretty exciting projects. But the travel equipped me with more ideas on what I wanted to achieve and create for people. 

What called you back to NZ?

We had interests here in New Zealand. Realistically, NZ is a fantastic place to bring up a family. When you get back, you realise just how good a place it is to be in. Our lifestyle/work ratio has improved since we started up the practice. It’s always very busy when you start a business and it got out of kilter for a while but we’re getting a better perspective on it.

What inspires you?

My clients and the environment. If you have a client with a lot of enthusiasm you pick up on it, run with it and it grows. Inspiration can be small or grand. For each project you can have a lot of fun and that will inspire the next project to keep on growing.

Your passions?

I love being on the water and in the mountains. If you can create great spaces in which to live and work, you can achieve what you want out of your built environment. How do you approach the design process?

We put a lot of time into the design process. We made a call early on not to let any work go out of the office unless we’re really happy with it—from the documentation phase on, we take great care with all the fine-tuning to make sure we’re on track. Part of our success is due to putting in the extra energy—we extend ourselves.

You live on the coast – why Muriwai?

Where else is there to live in Auckland? We wake up and look at the water. It’s a fantastic space that’s so powerful. It can be calm or extremely wild and dramatic. I’m very fortunate I can live and work in this environment only 35 minutes from downtown. When we first started this practice, people said I lived too far from the city. Now, in the last five years, people have said how lucky I am and accept that you don’t have to be in the CBD to be successful, especially with all the technology available today. You can work remotely very easily and achieve as good as or even better results. It’s also an environmental decision. To me exiting a local community and leaving it empty during the day and returning at night doesn’t work. There are a lot of things the Auckland Council needs to look at, not just putting in new infrastructure, but where we live and work. We need to look at the big picture.

Many of your buildings are also coastal. Do you have a special affection for coastal work?

I’ve been really lucky to be involved with clients doing coastal work. You do one project well and that project leads on to another. Without a doubt I have an affection for coastal work.

Northland Beach

What design challenges does the coast offer?

They’re quite public projects that can be viewed from the beach. When people come to the beach, you don’t want to see an eyesore. Visually, you have to be careful they fit with the environment. You can’t have anything that sticks out. For each building you must review how it sits on the site—whether that’s on a headland or quite suburban like at Omaha. Each project is different.

At the moment we’re designing the North Piha Surf Club. We’re 90 percent through the Resource Consent phase. That’s being built in a suburban environment with houses close by on both sides. When you look along the beach, you want to enjoy the vista, not have it hindered by large structures.

Then there’s the salt water, sea, sun, sand —all these things add to the project but they’re fine details. The real challenges are making the building work with the environment—making the building sit properly and listening to what’s needed.

North Piha Surf Club

What projects have given you the greatest pleasure?

They all have favourite parts. Sometimes just getting them completed is pure pleasure. It’s about creating that space that you just want to be in. It’s about getting the balance right so that all aspects of the house—including the windows—work really well. A building might be in a very built-up area yet you achieve total privacy. Or when clients send you photos of their dinner party that has worked so well because of the spaces you’ve created for them— that gives me such a buzz, being able to say, “we’ve ticked all the boxes and got it right”.

Favourite café?

The Far West café on top of Ruapehu. They have good coffee and I can ski down the other side.  

Your dream commission?

Dream commissions are for clients who really enjoy what they’re doing, whether that’s commercial or private residences. The owners have a passion for what they’re doing and you’re creating spaces that help them perform well. From the basic bach—which is a fun, family space—to larger buildings, they’re all dream commissions. I’ve designed grand, multi-storey buildings. But I no longer aspire to Sky Towers.

Dream commissions are where you’re involved and you’re able to add so much value. We were involved in the design of the Manukau Community Youth Centre and I met lots of kids who wanted things like areas where they could do their homework. The project was draining but very satisfying. The whole community became involved. Many local businesses had donated materials. We didn’t know it would become the dream commission until we became so deeply involved. We also did a really cool two bedroom bach for a couple, which was just what they wanted. When it’s built, it’s going to be awesome. I think you can make every commission a dream commission.

Suburban office