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While people are inspired by strong form, their hearts and minds are primarily captured by engaging experiences.

John Coop

There is a place in any city for iconic buildings with unique form to become talismanic. That sometimes happens through highly innovative technology - for example the glass pyramid of The Louvre or the dome of St Paul’s -  or it can be through good timing. The Empire State Building was constructed during the Depression when America needed to believe in US achievement: there were better things to come. Sometimes it is also innovation in the typology that is the foundation of achieving iconic status. Before the Louvre, many museums were simply academic institutions. The modernisation of this typology (by introducing restaurants, cafés and a major bookstore) was integral to the democratisation of culture, and turned the museum into a civic experience.  

The role a powerful form has in representing the identity of a city and community will always be valid, but we don’t always have that option. In fact, an iconic building might not be the right answer around what people seek when connecting with place. Take the Sydney Opera House, for instance, so often referred to as the ultimate reference point. For the first 30 years, the public’s experience of that building in terms of attending an event and engaging with it wasn’t good. More recently, it has been transformed into a more open and accessible space, with a richer purpose. It connects with Circular Quay, you can walk into the building to see an exhibition, pick up information, or have lunch there. The barriers have come down.

While people are inspired by strong form, their hearts and minds are primarily captured by engaging experiences. That changes everything. It means when architects design an office building, a tertiary education project, or a convention centre, we need to see the project as part of the city and focus on the human dimension including the needs and aspirations of the occupants. How will people work in the building, use the technology, connect with one another, eat, drink and socialise? And importantly, how will the building contribute to the public realm coherently? The new Auckland Convention Centre is very strong in this space. It will be central to the city’s identity for the visitors who us the building, and in some ways also for locals. At Warren and Mahoney, we worked hard to avoid it being a stand-alone, singular form.  It’s a strong form but it’s also highly permeable both physically and visually. The building can be entered on all sides and a public laneway through the site provides connection to the city. It will tell powerful stories about New Zealand both within its fabric and in its artworks. The reality is there was not the budget to create, say, an iconic roof form. But also it was not the correct response for a site that is within the fabric of the city.

Commercial Bay on the other hand is different. Its location on the waterfront brings with it the responsibility to design a sculptural form for the tower but, as it meets the ground, ensure that the project is inviting and of a scale that does not dominate. Commercial Bay is an answer in ‘cross-section’ if you like as to how architecture shapes the identity of city - a balance of form and experience.

How are we doing in this opportunity to use architecture as a tool for creating social identity? Many put forward the notion that New Zealand’s cities are filled with like-minded glass boxes. By and large, that impression is correct. 

A great deal of our established built stock is of the same height and the same size and the buildings do have a similar appearance.  If these structures are of a high quality in their detailing and their proportion, then that’s not always a bad thing. When you think of great cities of the world such as Paris, Copenhagen, New York and Barcelona or even more locally parts of the commercial district on the fringe of Sydney (eg Surry Hills), you have row upon row of comparable buildings that are simply well built and well designed. Together they provide a cohesive urban tapestry – a unified whole. In New Zealand, we simply haven’t had a high enough volume of work produced in one decade, to achieve the same results. In the last building boom in 2005/2006, there were only two major commercial projects built in the CBD – 80 Queen Street and the Ernst & Young building at Britomart.

It’s difficult to build a coherent city when there is insufficient concentrated growth.  But, take a look at our skyline. That time is beginning here now. Along with a thriving economy, there is perhaps a more sophisticated level of thought and process about what a building can and should be and more courageous clients to push those projects forward. And it’s not just happening in the CBDs of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It’s happening on a localised level. Some commercial work on the city fringe is playing its part. The retail precinct in Mackelvie Street by architects RTA Studio is a good example. It’s very Ponsonby: delicate, detailed and happy to include an ornamental expression. The same firm’s Ironbank building in K Road responds intelligently and confidently to context and Patterson Architects has achieved some superb work in Parnell. There is a growing body of work that responds to place where the ubiquity of commercial architecture – those maligned glass boxes - is overcome.

Neither is this revolution happening only in commercial, institutional and civic contexts. The Unitary Plan has unlocked the residential realm. Post World War II, the architect-designed home in the suburbs was the exception to the rule – the ‘funny’ house in the street. But times have changed. In Auckland, more than 50 per cent of housing over the next 20 years will be high-density apartments, or medium-density townhouses, designed by architects.  We are now invited in. It’s a great privilege and a responsibility. Within these new villages where future residents (young and old across many cultures) will live in apartments, there needs to be decent, small-scale true public space. The evolution of cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and even Tauranga is being steered by multi-disciplined teams of master planners, architects and landscape architects to provide a built fabric that makes living here a positive experience.  It’s this, rather than iconic buildings, that translates into identity. When people say “I loved my visit to New York”, they don’t think of the Empire State alone – they remember the sights, sounds and feel of the city as a whole.

It’s an exciting time for architects and architecture in New Zealand, where higher density can translate into a coherent fabric for ‘our place’: cities where identity will be defined by experience not form.

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We’re excited to see the School of Biological Sciences moving to the new building and the University’s science precinct, which will put science in the public eye and is a legacy for the future.

Rodney Sampson

Te Toki a Rata, the new building for the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, has been completed on schedule in time to open its doors for the 2018 first trimester.

Designed by Warren and Mahoney architects, the 12,500mfacility on the Kelburn campus is a long, low, four-storey building that accommodates four undergraduate teaching labs, two ‘super labs’, and collaborative learning spaces.

“We’re excited to see the School of Biological Sciences moving to the new building and the University’s science precinct, which will put science in the public eye and is a legacy for the future,” says Rodney Sampson, lead architect.

The development aligns with the University’s strategy for growth and supports the Government’s aspirations to foster a prosperous, technology-driven New Zealand. Designed for the digital age, the school provides a highly collaborative workplace and future-proofed modern facilities for students, lecturers and researchers.

To achieve these multi-layered objectives, Warren and Mahoney undertook a comprehensive three-year research and consultation process with the science community, watching the way students, lecturers and researchers work, and visiting overseas establishments to ascertain international best practice.

The architects identified the need to open up connections between different fields of science to allow a cross-pollination of ideas. Sampson: 

“Innovative research and learning is about people interacting so we aimed to break down the physical barriers between traditional science groups by providing stronger connections.”

Internally, the layout is flexible with minimal boundaries to ensure a blended research and learning environment that maximises opportunities for student/researcher engagement.  The labs are well connected to the student spaces and not isolated or siloed,” explains Sampson.

Glass-walled laboratories mean undergraduates can see the scientists at work – and imagine what their own future might be like.

Spaces throughout the building can be reconfigured to suit the changing needs of the facility which future-proofs the school. Two ‘super-labs’ are large-scale, open, adaptable environments that promote increased collaboration and ‘flex’ between users groups, ensuring that teams can adapt quickly to best address emergent research projects.

“The screening that wraps the façade provides solar protection but its vertical profile is also suggestive of DNA markers – the integral building blocks in our understanding of biological science,” says project architect, Catherine O’Hare of Warren and Mahoney.

A cultural narrative also informed the architects’ thinking. The screening doubles as a contemporary expression of a ‘takitaki or palisade’, commonplace on marae and pa sites providing reference to the hillside location.  Building details are layered and folded, all elements consistent with Maori and Pacific Island design.

Appropriately for a building which celebrates the biological sciences, there was a focus on sustainable materials and energy efficiency. The palette of timber, concrete and stone was, where possible, left natural to minimise the need for chemical coatings. The exposed thermal mass of the concrete retains heat, displacement ventilation keeps the spaces cool, and a narrow floor plate harnesses sunlight to provide a balance of comfort without excessive energy use. Tanks collect rainwater for re-use within the building and atriums inter-link interior spaces with the newly landscaped external environments to reinforce a connection to nature.

Te Toki a Rata is a critical gateway to the science precinct of the University. “It’s a dynamic yet permeable boundary,” says Sampson “that links visually and physically to the campus beyond.” A covered vehicle drop off and separate pedestrian entries were created while routes through the building and walkway links to existing infrastructure ensure it integrates with the campus as a whole. A centralised plaza between this gateway and the established buildings is a lively meeting hub for students.

Another focus for the building was to identify as integral to the Wellington landscape. Its folded façade references the topography of the site, and the curves of the ocean and land at the harbour edge. Its articulated form sets up a confident, open relationship between the capital and one of New Zealand’s premier teaching and research institutions.  

“The design of Te Toki a Rata fosters innovation, brings more vibrancy to the city and contributes to growing the New Zealand economy through world-class science,” says Sampson. 



In recognition of the scale and breadth of activity in the studio, we are taking a new ‘dynamic duo’ approach to the leadership of our Auckland studio

John Coop

Warren and Mahoney has announced changes to its Auckland studio leadership team, with the appointment of Andrew Tu’inukuafe as Studio Principal and Richard Archbold (Arch) as Performance Lead.

These changes follow the announcement that John Coop, the current Auckland studio Principal, will take over as Managing Director of Warren and Mahoney on 1 April 2018.

“In recognition of the scale and breadth of activity in the studio, we are taking a new ‘dynamic duo’ approach to the leadership of our Auckland studio,” said John Coop.

“Andrew plays an integral role in the studio. His exceptional people skills and ability to form highly collaborative working relationships will ensure his success as Studio Principal.

“Arch has demonstrated strong leadership skills across projects and studio resourcing, placing him in a good position to take on the newly created Performance Lead role to support Andrew,” continued Coop.

Andrew joined Warren and Mahoney in 2015, having worked at architectural practices in New Zealand, the UK and USA. As a Principal at Warren and Mahoney’s Auckland studio, Andrew leads numerous projects, the People and Culture Portfolio, and the Interiors and Workplace design team across the broader practice.

“Arch and I already work very closely together, and look forward to strengthening these links through our joint responsibility for the Auckland studio and a shared focus on people and culture,” said Andrew. 

Arch first joined Warren and Mahoney almost 20 years ago, and has been lead architect on major projects including the New Zealand International Convention Centre and the award-winning ANZ Centre. He is actively involved with public engagement and promotion of architecture through involvement with tertiary institutions and as co-host of the architectural podcast ‘76 Small Rooms’

Andrew and Arch will be responsible for defining and delivering the practice’s Auckland strategy, and ensuring Warren and Mahoney’s continued presence and strength in Auckland.

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Warren and Mahoney has announced the appointment of John Coop as Managing Director, taking over from Peter Marshall who has held the position since 2009.

The move will see Christchurch-based Principal Graeme Finlay replace John as Chairman of Warren and Mahoney Limited. Graeme currently holds the Deputy Chairman position.

This is the first time that Warren and Mahoney has appointed an Auckland-based Principal to lead the practice, and Peter Marshall says it’s a strong signal of the practice’s commitment to the region.  

“The Warren and Mahoney board has been actively reviewing the governance of the business and identifying leadership talent. We have a clear view on where we’re headed and a clear strategy on how to get there.

“John has the capability and capacity to take the practice forward, and his location in Auckland, with the leadership team close by, will strengthen the practice and prepare it for future growth.  

“It has been a privilege to have held this role for the past nine years over an exciting time of growth for the business and Warren and Mahoney brand,” said Peter Marshall.

John Coop has held the role of Warren and Mahoney Chairman since 2015, and has been a Principal and shareholder of the practice since 2001, and Regional Principal of the Auckland studio since 2011. His new role as Managing Director is effective as of 1 April 2018.

“We have a strong business and we are on a mission to be a New Zealand design practice active in the wider world. The more knowledge, experience and talent we can gather from afar, the more we can positively shape the New Zealand built environment.

“Peter Marshall has guided the practice superbly for over nine years, through the Christchurch earthquakes, a period of growth into Australia, and an increasingly complex construction sector. It is an exciting challenge to take on this role, and to continue this story,” said John Coop.

Graeme Finlay is currently Regional Principal of Warren and Mahoney’s Christchurch studio, Chairman of Warren and Mahoney Australia, and has been a Director of Warren and Mahoney Limited since 2006. He is a registered architect in New Zealand and Australia, and was involved in the establishment of the New Zealand Green Building Council.

“Having Graeme located in Christchurch with close ties to Australia will assist in balancing the geographic spread of our leadership,” said Marshall.

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King’s School, which soon approaches its centenary, has opened a new state-of-the-art multi-purpose learning environment as the school looks ahead to its next 100 years of educating boys.  

Located in the centre of the school, the Centennial Building has been designed to cater to the future needs of students and connect and strengthen the school’s community.

The opening of the new building is a personal highlight for King’s School Headmaster, Tony Sissons, who tasked architectural design practice Warren and Mahoney with the important job of designing a space that will need to support changing education trends and a technology future that is yet unknown.

“There were many planning discussions with Warren and Mahoney, and multiple requirements to consider, but core to the brief was the importance of human relationships within a school environment, particularly those between student and teacher.

“What we have in this building is a flexible environment that encourages collaboration with others, while at the same time providing more intimate spaces for individual and reflective learning. This is achieved without losing the strong personal relationship between each individual student and his teacher. It’s the best of both worlds,” says Sissons.

The new building adds an additional 5,000 sq. metres to the school’s existing footprint and consists of large light-filled classrooms, music studios and flexible discussion areas. It replaces the Hanna Block, which following a review by earthquake engineers was found to have serious structural problems.

Warren and Mahoney project lead and managing director, John Coop, says that the building had to connect the past and future of King’s School and that the end result replicates the real world of university facilities and contemporary workplaces.

“The space deliberately brings the activities of teaching and learning directly into the circulation pattern of the school so that movement and ambient activity are seen as positive additions to focus, rather than distractions.

“We’re really pleased with the end result, and to deliver the project on-budget with minimal disruption to the school’s activities,” says Coop.

The new Centennial Building allows a flow from individual classrooms into open flexible spaces, which can be used by students and staff from across the school. For the first time, all the school’s buildings are now well-connected by the use of bridges linking existing buildings to the new facility. The $30 million build took 20-months to complete, with most of the work being carried out during the school year.

Sissons says that the although the new building adds significant new spaces to the school, the King’s School Board is committed to not increasing its current roll, maintaining its staff: student ratio of 1:11.