In new six-part series Designing Dreams, prominent New Zealand architects, including Julie Stout, take host Matthew Ridge to visit their favourite New Zealand houses, designed by themselves or others.
What inspired you to become an architect?
My dad was a draughtsman. I’d watch him draw buildings into existence, and I was transfixed. Occasionally, he would let me colour in the plans – I felt very special. From an early age, I was aware of how different spaces affected me – how some classrooms were very peaceful and some were downright horrible, how I preferred going to the wooden church rather than the concrete one. I’d sit there working out the structure, and this applied to most places I was in.
Are most children like this?
They probably are.
On Designing Dreams you visit several buildings you created with your late husband, fellow architect David Mitchell, and the team at Mitchell Stout Dodd. Which is your favourite?
Oh, if life were that simple. A rich and complex career is not about favourites. It’s about the journey.
You’ve spent a lot of time sailing, and your work is heavily influenced by the Pacific. How did your time at sea inspire this?
By being there. The ocean is such a magnificent place in itself. Then there are the islands – each similar but different in their own ways. Fabulous diversity of life, and each culture builds in subtly different ways from the same materials they have at hand, creating shelter and community.
Can you put your design ethos into words?
What is the generating idea? What makes this project special, especially for the client?
Architecturally, who are your heroes?
Well, to be honest, I think most architects are heroes. It is a really difficult task to try to realise people’s dreams, especially when it is the most expensive thing that most people have ever undertaken. And to then draw these great, giant sculptures into being so they stand up, keep out the weather, house all the crap and look magnificent. And to try and make money and run a business, especially when many practices are small and people are juggling families and their profession.
What does the future of New Zealand architecture look like?
Hopefully, it looks environmentally sustainable, fits into a compact city, and feels at home here in Aotearoa.
And for you personally?
Fighting for Tāmaki Makaurau to be a great city that embraces the urban intensity and environmental ecology of the isthmus together. And to fight for the Waitematā and Hauraki Gulf’s health.
Designing Dreams screens Tuesdays at 8.30pm on Prime from November 2.