Ivan Mercep Award winners 2023 

Jasmax Architectural Graduates Ben Nielsen (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Pākehā) and Kelly Thomas-Raela (Ngāti Makea, Ngāti Pākeha) have received the Ivan Mercep Award 2023 for their joint submission, Tua: To Go Beyond (The Current State). This award commemorates the late Ivan Mercep’s dedication and commitment to the practice while retaining a focus on education, personal growth, and design excellence. It offers Jasmax employees an opportunity to develop their skillset, whilst encouraging thought leadership that guides the future direction of the practice. 

The proposal stemmed from Ben and Kelly’s shared desire to contribute to the future well-being of Aotearoa. The initiative will explore the connections of Te Taiao Māori, biophilic design, and living systems thinking. “Tua: To Go Beyond is an opportunity for us to support the journey of cultural capability at Jasmax, and authentically contribute to regenerative projects while developing our role as Te Tiriti o Waitangi partners. We’re incredibly grateful to be able to realise this kaupapa and look forward to sharing our findings with the practice,” says Ben and Kelly.

Ben and Kelly will receive $5,000 and one week of paid leave to undertake their research. The award was presented by Simon Mercep, journalist and son of Ivan Mercep.

Ivan Mercep — one of the founders of JASMaD, later Jasmax — dedicated his career to delivering positive economic, social, and cultural outcomes, fostering enduring relationships with Māori communities. Mercep was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to architecture in 1997 and received the Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2008 in recognition of an outstanding career, including a remarkable quantum of work of a consistently high standard of design. His portfolio of work includes the Waikato Museum of Art and History, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, and Te Kura Whare for Ngāi Tūhoe. Ivan continued to work at Jasmax until his passing in 2014.

“We received some incredible entries from individuals across various disciplines. In the end, Ben and Kelly’s initiative was selected as the award winner as it focuses on Jasmax's key values of bicultural design and sustainability. It involves a component of research and the development of practical tools that will support our practice in designing unique and authentic spaces rooted in Aotearoa,” says Principal James Whetter, who was on the judging panel.

Congratulations to Ben and Kelly.

Simon Mercep with Architectural Graduates Kelly Thomas-Raela and Ben Nielsen