Weekly Chew: Les Dykstra ventures from the heights of design right through to its watery depths

Weekly Chew: Les Dykstra ventures from the heights of design right through to its watery depths

Having worked on the design of two of the world’s most iconic sky towers, architect Les Dykstra goes aquatic to focus on the relationship between building and water.  

Who the heck are you? 

I am a registered architect, the director and creative architect of Architects Ldl—a practice I’ve been running for the last 11 years. I’ve been in the profession for the last 35 years so I have a great wealth of design knowledge and experience as well as good contacts in the industry and with authorities. I have a good knowledge of what they require. I’m also a passionate surfer. 

What projects are you best known for? 

I’m probably best known as the project architect with the Auckland Sky Tower and quickly after that the project architect on the Macau Tower in China. Before I did the Sky Tower, I had no experience or knowledge whatsoever to do with towers so it was a really fantastic project to be involved in. I did a lot of research on what needed to be done to get up to speed with tower design, the dynamics, the challenges. I’d love to do another tower! 

What inspires you? 

That would have to be water. Water inspires my design and all my day-to-day activities. I have a fascination with it. It connects me with life. 

5 things that influence you every day? 

-       Creativity

-       The weather

-       A good cup of coffee

-       My wife

-       Whatever design I am currently doing – I have a passion for it. 

You published a book called “Aqua House”. Tell us about it. 

It’s about the relationship between water and buildings. What I did was explore 20 buildings from the 21st century and looked at how water is used in those buildings. It started off as my Masters degree. The research looked at international architecture and how water was being used, as well as offering better ways to use it at both a commercial and domestic level. 

What did you discover? 

I found there were two distinct categories. Plumbing and the design of modern buildings has increased the demand for water and it continues to increase as we add appliances and equipment that make our lives better. Modern buildings are quite wasteful with water. We use it and discharge it. But modern buildings have an appreciation for water with aesthetic things like pools and reflection ponds, which are popular. 

Then there are more environmentally friendly buildings where we look at water and ask how we can recycle, capture and treat it to minimise the impact on the environment. What I found was that they had no appreciation for the beauty of water though they were designed to be better for the environment. 

In the commercial area, there’s progress being made in terms of using water efficiently within the building and extracting the beauty of water as well. Whereas in the domestic scene that’s not well developed. So, I designed a modern house with reflection ponds and a pool – all the aesthetic things, but we harvested water from the building and used it to supply water to these features. The water was reused to make the building environmentally friendly with a more thorough appreciation of water. We also had to take into account the context of the site, how best to utilise it and then how water informed the design process. 

Where was this site? 

The site we looked at was in Remuera, Auckland. Building will start next year. The book is about conceptual design, aimed at inspiring the development of these ideas. There’s lot of exploratory ideas, setting up a framework for how it could be done. It's also available as an ebook.

What’s your favourite building? 

The Sky Tower – people get so much enjoyment out of it. It has created an icon for Auckland and gives Aucklanders a sense of identity and ownership. 

And your favourite café? 

A long black takeaway at a good surf beach.

pool house

waterfall house

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