Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects - Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland, Tauranga

Inspired: HMOA’s Pete Lim on architect Todd Saunders


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You know those experiences that can jolt you out of your everyday: seeing an incredible piece of art, eating an exceptional meal, having a challenging conversation. Unexpected or unintended, these experiences linger in our mind afterwards and ever so slightly alter us. Pete, a recent addition to our Wellington studio, had one of these jolts recently at the NZIA Conference as he listened to Architect Todd Saunders.

Best-known for his work on Fogo Island, Pete’s interest was sparked when Saunders spoke about his early days starting out as an architect. “I was impressed by his daring ‘go get ‘em’ approach to architecture. He [Saunders] and Tommie Wilhelmsen, an architecture school buddy, pooled their entire savings together and bought some land on the edge of a fiord about two hours from Bergen [Norway]. Their idea was to build an experimental structure, and as they’d be both the client and the architect they thought they’d be able to pursue their project vision without compromise.”

“At least that was until they found out about the no-build policy on the piece of land! But these two young passionate guys managed to convince the authorities to let them build a small structure.” Now known as the Hardanger Retreat, this project put Todd and Wilhelmsen on the architectural map.

Back at the Wellington HMOA studio the week following the conference, Pete talked about how important it was to have these opportunities to hear architects like Saunders speak. A keen traveller, we wouldn’t be surprised to hear Pete to announce a trip to Norway in the not-too-distant. Although he and his partner’s plan to design and build their own house may mean that travel plans are put on hold for now.