Build big

Magazine layout

Sources: New Zealand Vice Chancellors’ Committee, Statistics New Zealand. Infographic: Su Yin Khoo

Architects are sharpening their pencils on more diverse designs

Jason Smith


Rulers are big on plans. Planners connect in a long line since before Pyramids with planners today, imagineering palaces and towers and vanity projects as well as domestic dwellings. Some length before Pythagoras did his triangle trick, architecture was already a noble creative profession.

Here and now, few things may be so important yet so unseen as our trainee architects —another modern paradox. Under construction are our own Palladios and Wrens to build us the future. Modern New Zealand architects graduate from only three schools—Universities of Auckland and Victoria, Unitec in Auckland. New architects have to be smart in order to prosper in this Homo bureaucraticus era where planning consent is the rock on which lofty and humble creative dreams alike are smashed.

Buildings up and down the country, and increasingly overseas, are drawn by young Kiwi architects. At about 1.2 percent of all NZ University graduates, architects (along with other designers and planners) are a small but influential group of professionals. Their work casts a long shadow. As shown in the first chart below, their number is increasing slowly—sustainably, you could say.

Seeking the golden means young architects sharpen their pencils designing houses, at least for now, in their New Zealand career arc. But, slide a ruler over the second chart and—haha! (thank you, Capability Brown)—there’s an increasing trend away from designing houses towards designing other types of buildings—including hotels, apartments, industrial spaces, eco-friendly offices. Non-residential buildings are mostly the work of architects, but only some five percent of houses have the mark of the registered professional’s pen (a figure, by the way, that does the rounds of the profession but from sources unknown).

Taking into account amateur improvements which now require planning consent but formerly were unmeasured, the trend is still a clear one. The work of architects in New Zealand is becoming more diverse, as well as plentiful. Practising architects who put into practice more projects are practically perfect for any practice. Join the dots.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).