“My training and experiences as an architect provide a different lens on the world - what you see and the way you look at things are shaped by this experience. Architecture, the making of space, enclosure, openness, light, big spaces, small spaces, open spaces… having grown up on the West Coast, for me it’s about big spaces and how light interacts with them.”
Christchurch Studio Leader and Principal Chris (known as CJ) is practical, genial and down to earth. Architectural expression for him is deeply influenced by the green, sustainable roots of his childhood as well as the open, vaulted spaces of the wild coast.
Nowadays, his interest is piqued by vast, complex public projects – at the cutting edge of shaping a city. He leads (or catalyses) large multidisciplinary teams where stakeholder engagement is the norm, technical precision in delivery is a prerequisite and diplomacy is paramount. These are often civic projects in infrastructure, tertiary education, transport or leisure, where public and political scrutiny is high. Throughout these projects CJ is known for his strategy, clear communication and personal warmth.
Most recently CJ has spent four years working at the helm of Auckland’s CRL (City Rail Link), a super-fast delivery, underground city rail initiative that will galvanise public transport in the city. Before this CJ was involved in the design of Auckland’s emerging rail transport network in advance of electrification, including generic station design, masterplanning, feasibilities and the development of design guidance for the network.
Central to this and other projects he has worked on is CJ’s focus on ‘outside in’ and ‘inside out’ architecture: a philosophy to place as much importance on learning about the context of the building that is being designed as the thinking about the activities within. “You have to look ten streets beyond the building to get a wider understanding of what the building response should be. I understand the context as well as the way people will use the space inside,” he says.
A multi-award winning architect, CJ says he is boundlessly optimistic. “Clients become friends," he says "I don’t think this is conscious. It just happens.”