Meet Matt, Our top Architect in Auckland
It’s easy to typecast our Auckland director, Matt Pearson. An entrepreneurial Kiwi bloke, he loves working on his own home and has been involved with the development of several apartment buildings—the sound of a concrete pump is music to his ears!
He even drives a ute (well, a fancy one).
But just when you think you’ve got him in a box—he surprises. Because Matt’s also your typical architect, that intense kid at school who loved art, maths and physics, who worries about the details, always seeking to improve himself and be taken seriously as a designer. A keen painter (although his young family no longer allows the time), Matt enjoys yoga and meditation, and trains at least twice a week in a swim squad for triathletes.
Matt, you got stuck into your own apartment developments almost straight from architecture school, was that unusual in your peer group of Auckland architects?
Not really, you have to remember they were quite dire days, there wasn’t much work for architects, you had to be industrious. In my world, it wasn’t unusual to work on building sites—and for me, becoming an architect meant it was even more important to be able to walk on site and understand how everything worked.
You graduated from Auckland University in the early 90s and initially moved to London…
I only lasted a year but still managed to acquire some solid architectural experience, and save enough money to buy a small section on my return to Auckland. It was in my home suburb of Manurewa in South Auckland. I borrowed $65,000 against my mother’s house and built a two level, three-bedroom house with a single garage!
Over the following few years, I designed and built progressively-better houses in wealthier Auckland suburbs.
Which of your apartment developments or projects are you most proud of?
Momentum Apartments on College Hill in Freemans Bay. The fact that the apartments are occupied by long term tenants says a lot. The building needed durable materials and to be cost effective but it still has great aesthetics.
I’m also proud to have twice built my own home. The first time was in 1997, my very first apartment development. I knew the tenants in five out of the ten apartments so it became known as ‘Melrose Place’.
The second is my current home, a three-level concrete house.
Matt, some of your Auckland mates were surprised when you made the move from your own business to set up the Auckland architectural design studio for HMOA …
More than surprised, they thought I was mad! There’s some truth to the cliché that Aucklanders are motivated by money. There were definitely questions around my decision to join an existing business, where I was no longer the only boss, and to put design before profit.
Why did you do it?
Despite being incredibly proud of the quality of my own developments, I was at a time in my life where I felt the pull to be immersed in a more design-focussed practice. My workload was also becoming unsustainable on my own, and I was seeking a new opportunity.
When I heard HMOA was looking for a partnership in Auckland, I got in touch. I appreciated the quality of their work, and It was a chance to learn and develop my own skills as a design architect. For HMOA, there was the benefit of my years of experience, and contacts, in the Auckland commercial sector.
I also have a strong interest in BIM modelling, and HMOA is expert in Revit software—the first New Zealand architectural practice to adopt it.
Nonetheless, a brave move…
Neither party dived straight in. HMOA has a strong reputation as an NZIA award-winning practice but I definitely still spent the time to make sure the directors and their teams were the genuine bunch they said they were—and I’ve no doubt John, Max and Duval did the same with me.
Were you always going to be an Auckland architect?
According to my school friends and teachers I was! There are no architects in my family but I guess it was the ‘good at art, maths and physics’ thing.
Describe the vibe in the Auckland studio...
Every day I get to walk into our studio on Parnell Road and work with such a keen and talented bunch of people. We all have different outlooks on life, due to our different ages and backgrounds (we’re a truly multicultural office, very Auckland), but everyone gets on and we work so well together as a project team.
Over 20 years, HMOA has developed a diverse portfolio, from exquisitely-detailed small homes to expansive houses, and a range of commercial work. Is there a focus for your studio?
Not really, my experience is in apartments, larger commercial projects, but we all work on both residential and commercial, large and small scale, as well as interior fit-outs. We’re lucky to have the skills and resources of the other two well-established studios in Wellington and Christchurch, and we’re about to launch a Tauranga office. Wellington directors Max Herriot and John Melhuish fly up to Auckland for the day once a fortnight, more often when required.
How’s your home town doing?
I think this city is heading in the right direction. Auckland has come a long way since I grew up in Manurewa. My children have tried food that I had to travel to different countries to experience. 25 years ago, I looked jealously at electric trains in European cities, I never really believed Auckland would get them too.