“You know it’s good architecture if you’ve got a smile on your face. A client’s vocabulary is: ‘fantastic, love that’. People don’t often know what’s good about a building. They just know it’s good. It feels right.”
Born in Leicester to a fourth generation Kiwi, Neil came to New Zealand when he was four. During his schooling in Auckland, he met a leading architectural academic and was immediately hooked. The career which has ensued lays claim to some of the most complex, celebrated buildings in New Zealand and has seen one of Neil’s projects achieve the world’s foremost prize in architecture.
After qualifying in architecture in Auckland and working for the much loved New Zealand architect Rewi Thompson, Neil travelled to Sydney where he worked with the trail-blazing Australian architect John Andrews (designer of Harvard Graduate School of Architecture and Toronto’s CN Tower). During his three years there he was privileged to work on projects from Sydney to Los Angeles and throughout Australia. He was then inspired to undertake a Masters degree in Urban Design and Architecture at Columbia University, New York.
Neil’s time overseas spanned 12 years, working alternately in London and Sydney. Significant projects he worked on include the Helicon Building London, renowned at the time for its leading edge sustainability and high technology, and the New Sydney showgrounds at the 2000 Olympics venue Homebush, which was awarded the RAIA sustainability in architecture award.
Back in Auckland, Neil worked predominantly in a consortium with the masterful Australian architectural firm FJMT. Neil’s projects with FJMT included the University of Auckland’s Business School, and the redevelopment of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The latter was awarded World Building of the Year 2013, in the World Architecture Festival – arguably the highest accolade of any in the architectural world.
Neil joined Jasmax in 2010. He is currently the lead architect on the University of Waikato’s Tauranga CBD campus project, is leading the masterplanning work at the University of Waikato and collaborating with another prominent New Zealand practice on the innovative Pā project at University of Waikato.
Neil says that understanding social and cultural contexts is imperative to meaningful public projects. He has been instrumental in infusing public projects in New Zealand with a Māori dimension through fostering key relationships with key stakeholders and developing frameworks for both mutual understanding and implementation.
“My philosophy is that of an informationalist. I look for stories and connections that work on the site and brief to morph the project, make it informed or human. Social and cultural information is a top priority in an urban context – things like history, scale and grain (the street proportioning), permeability and connectedness are so important.”