Architect Eqo Leung says he’s still learning. The lesson is to keep it as simple as possible
At 35 years of age, Eqo Leung is still a sophomore in architectural terms. “I haven’t yet developed a philosophy or style, as such,” he says. “I’m still learning—and what I’m learning is to keep it as simple as possible.”
Modest words from a man who recently scooped the 2009 NZIA New Zealand Architecture Medal—the most respected gong in his profession—for the design for the Wilson School in Takapuna. Conceived on a tiny budget, New Zealand’s first purpose-built school for children with special needs had to be as straightforward as possible, yet Leung also managed to imbue the easy-to-read, functional building with an uncomplicated grace. “Obviously I’d love a client who wrote a blank cheque,” says Leung. “With a bigger budget we might have created a better piece of architecture, but the sense of calm and peace, the relationship with the outdoors … that didn’t cost anything.”
The Hong Kong-born architect immigrated to New Zealand with his family when he was 18 and completed his architecture degree in Auckland, with stints in Germany, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. He currently works at Opus Architecture in Auckland, where he was originally hired on $13 an hour.
The Wilson school is now seen as a model internationally—and has set Leung’s agenda for the future. “Like most architects, I want to contribute to society,” he says. “I love public buildings, and I’d like to do a museum or civic building. His recent restoration work on the Dunedin Town Hall won over critics by creating an unexpected glass entrance cube that references the Louvre pyramid in Paris and Norman Foster’s glass dome addition to the Reichstag in Berlin.
With three new projects for Massey University up next, it will be interesting to see how Leung translates the needs of another community into reality.
“Young minds and big ideas need a big, inspiring space,” he says. Give the man some room.