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

Jury Service: Steph Gardner on the NZIA Wellington Awards Jury


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Steph Gardner mary daish Natasha Markham Beth Cameron
NZIA Wellington Awards jury: Steph Gardner, Mary Daish (convenor), Natasha Markham and Beth Cameron
Riversdale house by parsonson architects
The 2024 NZIA Awards Jury for Wellington visit Riversdale House by Parsonson Architects

Architects on tour

In March, HMOA's Steph Gardner spent six days on tour judging the 2024 entries in the New Zealand Institute of Architects Local Awards Architecture for the Wellington region. But that's only part of the story – a lot more goes into being a member of an NZIA jury. Steph explains the process and what she gained from 'jury service'.

Meet the jury

HMOA Associate Steph Gardner says she was delighted to receive the call from Mary Daish inviting her to be a member of the 2024 awards jury for Wellington, one of the eight regions that make up the NZIA Local Architecture Awards

Each local jury comprises local registered architects and an architect from outside the region. Usually, there is also someone on the jury who is not an architect, a 'layperson'.

As convenor, it was up to Mary to form her jury, with the final approval of each member from the institute. This time, everyone was a registered architect but the jury included a range of experience in residential and commercial architecture and urban design.

As well as Mary Daish and Steph Gardner, the 2024 jury included 'out of towner' Natasha Markham, director of MAUD, and Beth Cameron from Makers of Architecture.

MAUD stands for 'architecture and urban design', with Natasha Markham, its founder, having also worked as an urban designer. Natasha is chair of the Auckland Urban Design Panel and the Hobsonville and Auckland Housing Programme Design Review Panels. She also co-hosts the architecture podcast 76 Small Rooms with Jeremy Hanson.

Makers of Architecture is a relatively young practice founded on sustainable principles. The practice is also involved with prefabrication and construction.

Mary Daish has been a registered architect since 1998 and established her practice in 2007. Since then she's won multiple NZIA awards for her residential projects.

Steph Gardner joined HMOA 20 years ago as a young graduate, who had recently landed in New Zealand. She is experienced in commercial and residential architecture and is an expert in the modelling software Revit. Steph was made an HMOA Associate in 2019.

The winners of the Wellington Architecture Awards will be announced on 23 May at a ceremony at the St James Theatre. Winners at all local awards levels can then be considered for awards at a national level. 

Andrew Sexton House
Visiting Waikanae House by Andrew Sexton Architecture

The judging process

At the start of the process, the jurors got up to speed with NZIA judging guidelines to ensure their choices followed certain criteria. Steph says there was a lot of homework to do before coming together to create the shortlist.

Each jury member carefully assessed the full list of submissions via a portal on the NZIA website. In 2024, there was a record number of projects entered – 63.

The jurors then met on Zoom to discuss their preferences for the shortlist, according to Steph it was a surprisingly seamless process that demonstrated the convenor's instincts in the selection of her jury, "We immediately gelled and while there were always hearty discussions, everyone was listened to and heard, and we were fairly well aligned in our early choices".

There is no predetermined number for the shortlist, but this year there were 38 projects, including two in the Enduring Architecture category.

The NZIA then organised the tour to view each project, most often with the architect on site to talk to their work. 

Riversdale house by parsonson architects v2
Peeking into Riversdale House by Parsonson Architects

Some aspects of the projects blew me away"

Before hitting the road to view the 38 shortlisted projects, the jury met in person for the first time in central Wellington. The six-day tour, including a full weekend, covered the entire region, Waikanae to Riversdale and many stops in between. Day 1 was a 7am start with nine projects viewed over 12 hours.

Overall, Steph estimates the time needed to be on the jury was over 50 hours – a big commitment, especially for architects in sole practice.

"The dynamic of the four of us all brought diverse insights to the projects, and each of us took away something different from each project," says Steph. "Some aspects of the projects blew me away – there's much more conveyed than what you can glean from looking at an online submission".

With such long days, and Mary Daish as convenor, lunches were obviously an important component of the tour, with much thought put into catering for all dietary requirements!

Pa Reo by Tennant Browne Architects
Pā Reo Campus by Tennent Brown Architects

Looking past the money, the fashion and the fads ...

Residential projects – beautifully crafted small homes to highly skilled alterations and multi-unit developments – were balanced with a range of commercial architecture, from interiors and public architecture to two urban projects, Willis Lane and Te Āhuru Mōwai Vision Framework for Te Āhuru Mōwai in Porirua.

For Steph, the education project was a stand-out: Pā Reo Campus at Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Ōtaki is a fully certified Living Building of which there are currently only 30 worldwide. 

This is trailblazing architecture for New Zealand." 

"Projects like Pā Reo Campus by Tennent Brown Architects impact and educate everyone who works on them, from the tradespeople on the job who learn to change their ways to the supply chains. This is trailblazing architecture for New Zealand." 

Steph said she was impressed by the lack of ego in the architecture she saw, "There was a down-to-earth appreciation of quality architecture – looking past the money, the fashion and the fads … there were life-changing projects; improving quality of life for clients, and you can't get that unless you use a qualified architect".

Steph also enjoyed seeing HMOA's Riversdale Beach House for the first time, which, along with many of the shortlisted projects meant resilience and climate change were front of mind on the tour.  

"The architects' solutions talk about Aotearoa today," she says. "I'm also grateful to the people who allowed us into the heart of their homes, and it was inspiring to be pulled out of my daily routine to see projects that I would never otherwise have experienced. I learnt so much and it was amazing to be invited onto the jury with these other women architects, all from different backgrounds to my own."

A visit to the snow leopard enclosure at Wellington Zoo by Local Landscape Architecture Collective and Architecture Workshop highlighted the diversity of the entries.

Snow Leopard Enclosure 2
Snow Leopard Enclosure at Wellington Zoo by Local and Architecture Workshop
Architect Mary Daish
Mary Daish, convenor of the Wellington awards jury.
Waikanae House by Andrew Sexton
Meeting Andrew Sexton at the house he designed in Waikanae.
St Hildas by First Light Architecture
St Hilda's Church by First Light Studio (above and below)
St HIldas church v2
Pa Reo Campus
Pā Reo Campus
Snow Leopard Enclosure