Discovering, interpreting and expressing client personality

With a string of New Zealand’s most successful entrepreneurs as clients, David Ponting, founding director of Ponting Fitzgerald, finds plenty of opportunity to distil the creative spirit into exceptional architecture. 

Ponting believes commissioning a home has the potential to be a profound and life enhancing experience. His careful design approach is focussed on client inclusion, encouraging participation and feedback throughout the conceptual process. 

“Architecture is about discovering, interpreting and expressing the personality of the client, otherwise the building is simply a statement of my own taste. A true home is a bespoke creation representing memories, dreams and achievement. It must also be tailored to meet the lifestyle of a family and have the flexibility to adapt as needs change. 

“When clients select a practice it seems they create a shortlist of prospective talent and review their portfolios, but ultimately they base their decision on who they most connect with and who they feel will listen and respond to the specifics of their brief. They recognise that the creative process involves a great deal of interaction and they want to go through this experience in the company of someone they enjoy. People are looking to work with someone who cares about their project, someone who respects the fact that this will be their house and infuse their life experience into it. When they sense that empathy and creative connection they intuitively know it and it means a lot to them to find that person.” 

3D CAD images for Muriwai clifftop home

It’s no coincidence, he says, that 90 percent of his firm’s clients are entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs, they share a spirit and a creative energy; they are dynamic, inspiring people. Ponting feels fortunate that such people have been drawn to him through chance encounters—seated adjacent on flights or dinner parties, or simply through casual introductions at events. The Holy Grail however is still word of mouth, to be spoken of positively and recommended by others who have valued the experience of working with him. 

He continues to attract fellow entrepreneurs as they recognise in Ponting his ability to distil their ideas in a strong, singular expression. 

In creating their dream building, Ponting allows his clients to become the art director in a process where they know they have control. “They can start taking their ideas to the table without feeling at risk. When the environment is inclusive, it promotes brainstorming and random thoughts, where a good idea can be debated, not shamed out of play.”  

Creative clients are brilliant thinkers and by far the most engaging, says Ponting, because they’re looking to extend any opportunity to express their ideas. “They want to be part of the discussions that are inherent in the creative process. Once immersed they can ensure that, step by step they’re getting a home that’s moulded to the shape of their life. 

“Because they’re entrepreneurs, they’re also conscious of being flexible in their response to opportunity. We don’t set out to extend projects but on the occasions when a client sees obvious value in leveraging an idea they benefit through giving freedom to their own big picture. By bringing this flexibility into play, the process can evolve and elevate itself well beyond the original concept. It’s a sign people are engaging with the experience as opposed to simply observing it happen.” 

Of course, people’s ideas have to be balanced within the context of the landscape in which the home is built, says Ponting. “There’s a good reason why people buy a particular site and that will drive a lot of the functional requirements of the design, however it is crucial ensure this pragmatic foundation is balanced with character and personality.” 

Ponting’s practice remains busy, however, over the downturn, he says, entrepreneurs have been hit hard and the market has contracted. “Those who survive will inevitably be fitter and sharper and even more willing to look for opportunities as we emerge from the current situation.” Ponting believes the entrepreneurial spirit of New Zealanders is born in the knowledge that it’s an amazing experience to create something out of nothing.

Newly released images of family home in Remuera

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