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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 are very pleased to welcome Richard to our board. He has extensive experience across key sectors such as tourism, transport and infrastructure and urban design and with organisations that are fast evolving and dynamic.”

John Coop

Warren and Mahoney Limited has announced the appointment of Richard Leggat as an independent director to the practice’s board of directors effective January 2018. The announcement represents an increase in the size of the board from seven to eight directors, with Richard Leggat joining Anne Blackburn as its second independent director. 

Warren and Mahoney’s Chair, John Coop says that as the international architectural design practice continues to grow, it’s important to bolster the diversity of perspectives that help govern the business.

“We are very pleased to welcome Richard to our board. He has extensive experience across key sectors such as tourism, transport and infrastructure and urban design and with organisations that are fast evolving and dynamic.”

“We have benefitted from Anne’s independent perspective for several years, and now in addition look forward to Richard’s expertise and insight as we continue to evolve,” said Coop.

Founded in 1955, the practice today employs almost 300 staff across seven integrated studios: Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, Sydney and Melbourne.

Richard Leggat has been a full time director for the past six years with positions on a number of government and sporting organisations including Tourism New Zealand, Education New Zealand, NZ Post, Panuku Development Auckland, Chair of the NZ Cycle Trail, Director of Cycling and Director of Snow Sports NZ.

“Richard’s directorships have reach and presence across New Zealand, giving him insight into key national issues, as well as an understanding of the priorities and objectives of central and local government,” says Coop.

Born and raised in Christchurch, Richard says he grew up surrounded by Warren and Mahoney projects, and is looking forward to deeper involvement with the business as it is today.  

“Warren and Mahoney is a successful business with a great heritage. My experience with Panuku has shown me the importance of the built environment, how it affects people, and enhances the community and people’s lives.                                                      

“I look forward to using the insights I’ve learned from different sectors to help Warren and Mahoney make good decisions that lead to celebrated outcomes that staff are proud of and the community benefits from,” says Leggat.

Warrenand Mahoney Christmas2017 Red Nobutton

As is tradition at Warren and Mahoney, our creative teams have banded together to create our annual Christmas greeting. 

Please click here to view.

We wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy festive season.

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Gavin is borderless in his outlook, globally aware and very well placed to serve our clients’ interests both locally, in Australia and further afield internationally.”

John Coop

Warren and Mahoney has appointed former global head of civic and events at Woods Bagot, Gavin Kain, as Principal, fortifying the talented line up of the international team.

Kain’s specialist skills in mixed-use precincts and large-scale projects will see the practice continue to expand its presence in Australasia with a ‘one studio’ approach.

“The time is right to embrace the dissolution of borders through technology and strong, global networks,” says Kain. “Australian and New Zealand architectural studios are highly regarded across the world for our innovation and empathy, and our current remit includes a strong foundation of projects that demonstrate our skills spanning diverse sectors.”

Kain leaves his previous position as global head of the civic and events sector at international architecture firm Woods Bagot, where he led design teams on major civic and public buildings, acting as liaison between the client, designers, engineers and other community stakeholders. While at the firm, Kain spent time based in Brisbane, Adelaide, Auckland, and Sydney.

“A key skill in undertaking large-scale projects is the ability to form a strategic alliance with clients, teams, and stakeholders,” says Kain.

“It is imperative to collaborate, listen and respond at every stage of the project timeline. Warren and Mahoney’s process ensures a diversity of perspectives, making for a stronger whole and mitigating risks throughout.”

His two decades of experience has seen him undertake projects and industry roles across the globe, from Vancouver to Dubai, including government design review panels, architectural award juries, and university positions.

Chairman of Warren and Mahoney, John Coop, said it was an ambitious period for the practice and Kain’s appointment aligned with the strategy to develop closer relationships between the seven studios across New Zealand and Australia.

“Gavin’s strength lies in finding the commonalities and differences in each environment,” says Coop.

“He is borderless in his outlook, globally aware and very well placed to serve our clients’ interests both in the Asia Pacific and further afield internationally.” 

Kain’s expansive expertise will add significant weight to the studio’s capabilities. He is a world-wide leader in the design of convention centres, and was a key member of the design team for the New Zealand International Convention Centre in Auckland.

Kain was also responsible for the design of the $400m Adelaide Convention Centre, the New Zealand International Convention Centre in Auckland, the masterplan for the $250m Christchurch Convention Centre, as well as the concept design for major facilities in Asia, Africa and North America.

“Convention centres are often viewed as big, un-activated boxes, but of interest to me is the way they can contribute to city building and be of value to the community. I always ask ‘what will this mean to the place and the people?’” says Kain.

“The Adelaide Convention Centre presented a satisfying opportunity to regenerate part of the city. In some ways, building at its location in North Terrace was the most difficult option, but the outcome was better for visitors and the community.

“The convention centre became a missing piece of the puzzle that stitched the city and river together.”

Kain’s expertise extends over multiple sectors. Notably, he led the $200m South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) masterplan, which includes up to 25,000sqm of space within a sculptural building in the heart of Adelaide’s medical and health precinct.

He also worked alongside Warren and Mahoney for five years on the masterplan of the NZ$400m New Zealand International Convention Centre in Auckland, and worked alongside the team on the Christchurch Blueprint and the Commercial Bay mixed-use project.

“I’m excited to join a company that has global aspirations where the design focus reflects and strengthens communities,” says Kain.

Kain will work across projects in both New Zealand and Australia. 

Barrington Nick

Warren and Mahoney, has announced the promotion of Nick Deans and Barrington Gohns to Principal, marking a significant phase of growth for the practice as it continues to expand its presence in Australasia.

Nick and Barrington will be assuming the roles of principal at the Melbourne and Auckland studios respectively and will strengthen the practice’s ‘one studio’ approach, whereby its seven studios across Australia and New Zealand function as a collective team.

A senior architect with Warren and Mahoney since 2015, Nick previously held a position at Woods Bagot and is Chair of the Property Council of Australia’s Future Directions Committee Australia, and an active member of the Australian Institute of Architects.

Nicks’ architectural design work spans a range of sectors including commercial, multi- residential, and tertiary design. He has worked closely with developer, GURNER™’s founder Tim Gurner on several of his latest residential projects including Regent Apartments, Stanley Street Apartments, and the upcoming rejuvenation of The Spanish Club.

Nick's collaborative approach to design mirrors Warren and Mahoney’s commitment to working in strategic partnership with its clients.

“ My career has been built around the strength of professional service and the development of client relationships over a period of time,” said Nick.

“ I am a strong collaborator and am transparent in my approach to design. I am proud to work at a studio that embraces this approach, and brings innovative and functional ideas to all sectors of design.

“ As a trans-Tasman practice, Warren and Mahoney brings a fresh set of eyes and a point of difference to the Australian market.”

Barrington has been with Warren and Mahoney since his days at the University of Auckland in 2009, where he quickly built up a team of specialist graduates to test new environments within private and public-use spaces.

Barringtons’ experience includes major commercial and public projects including the redevelopment of TVNZ, the design and development of five-star Hotel 3 at Auckland Airport and the recently completed mixed-use star car showroom for Giltrap Group.

“ Warren and Mahoney has worked on shaping cities over the past 60 years, creating sustainable communities that bring people together,” said Barrington. 

“This experience gives the studio a unique perspective on city-making that drives us to always look at new and innovative ways of approaching design.”

Gohns’ approach continues to push beyond the realms of traditional architecture, working to create visual installations and technology-driven designs that deliver outstanding results.

Nick and Barrington will work collaboratively across various projects and teams in Australia and New Zealand. 

Chairman of Warren and Mahoney, John Coop, said the promotions mark an important step in Warren and Mahoney’s growth strategy.

“ Nick and Barrington will move into our leadership team, driving us forward and enhancing the skills and capabilities of studio,” said John.

“ As an international practice, our team is comprised of some of the most talented designers from around the world, each of whom bring their own unique set of skills and experience.

“ We are a 300-strong team, and we leverage that experience and hone those skills in the pursuit of architectural excellence.”

Warren and Mahoney has also recently promoted the following individuals to Associate:


Thomas Hansen 

Edward Salib 


Holly Campbell

Ngata Tapsell

Sebastian Hamilton


Cheryl Kilpatrick