An interview with Jenny Duck from award winning firm Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects

Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects is an NZIA award winning practice who have been designing beautifully-crafted kiwi homes for over 20 years. With studios in Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland and most recently Tauranga, they have a highly impressive portfolio of commercial and residential projects all across the country. Auckland director Matt Pearson has a strong connection to Raglan, having holidayed and surfed there for many years. We’re a big fan of HMOA’s works at Rangitahi, and with their recent opening of the Tauranga studio, we thought we’d have a chat to them about some of their projects & how far they’ve come. Jenny Duck who runs the Tauranga office kindly answered a few questions for us…

Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects have been in the NZ architecture game for over 20 years, and designed some impressive homes, has much changed since then?

Construction and compliance costs have certainly increased but the fundamentals of good design remain the same. It’s great to see more people becoming aware of the value a Registered Architect can bring to their project.

What do you love most about being a Registered Architect?

It’s very exciting when you see the impact a carefully-considered new space or home has on someone’s wellbeing. Details that may seem small can have a big impact on how people live. It’s rewarding for architects to guide clients through a collaborative design process, and then see them experience the end result.

I moved from our Christchurch studio to set up in Tauranga a couple of years ago and I am excited to present a female perspective to the Bay of Plenty region, as well as a range of skills and experience. While HMOA is an award-winning national practice, we also provide a personalised service and I love that.

Sustainability is an important issue in all HMOA’s work now, and we’re constantly developing our knowledge of green building practices. It’s always an interesting and challenging time to be an architect!

Does HMOA have a clear design philosophy or does it change from project to project?

The process of working with an architect is staged and collaborative, and this is a constant in all our projects. Registered architects are experts in designing for a specific client and a specific site—decisions around sun, views, shelter, sustainability, topography are key.

We need to understand how our clients live, and how they want to live, so we can design a home just for them, not a generic concept of someone else’s ‘dream home’. This may mean projects are built in stages, either to accommodate budget or to make sure the home is flexible to meet a future change in circumstances, like children leaving home or extended family coming to stay more often. Sometimes we’re designing a bach that will one day transition into a permanent home—there are a lot of factors to discuss and work through for each project.

HMOA has designed a number of houses on the Kapiti Coast, we especially love the eco-friendly Peka Peka House. Do you think this kind of home would be suited to the Rangitahi peninsula?

Definitely, all our coastal holiday houses are created for the local conditions and with flexible living in mind. What we call Peka Peka House I is made up of three simple boxes, each designed with views and climate in mind. One box is dedicated to living and dining, the other to sleeping and the third houses the garage and workshop.

Peka Peka House I, Kapiti Coast

What’s your favourite HMOA project and why? (if you can choose one!)

Another house we did in Peka Peka, appropriately named Peka Peka House II. It’s a bit unusual for a coastal property because it favours privacy and shelter over sea views. Nestled in behind the sand dunes and bounded by a forest of ancient Kānuka, our clients asked for the best in indoor and outdoor living. The main house sits on one side of the glade and opens onto a sheltered internal courtyard protected from the prevailing coastal winds. A separate sleep-out provides protection and privacy from neighbours. The native bush was a starting point for the home and influenced the materials we used. The house is currently a weekend bach but will become a place to retire to.

Peka Peka house II, Kapiti Coast

What are your favourite materials to use in your designs and why? Eg Cladding materials.

We love working with cedar, which can be stained black or oiled to look natural. It’s a sustainable and durable product that works well near the coast. It also looks beautiful.

What is it about Rangitahi that appeals to you as an Architect?

It’s refreshing that Rangitahi has a focus on quality design and a sensitivity to its stunning setting. These are shared values with HMOA.

Any advice for people wanting to build an affordable and sustainable home on Rangitahi?

There are so many factors to consider but the key ones are minimising the size through good planning, maximising insulation and thinking carefully about the orientation of the house.

Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects has studios in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Tauranga, where Jenny Duck is based. Read more about Jenny here, and get in touch if you’d like to work with HMOA on your Rangitahi home – jenny@hmoa.net.nz. 

Riversdale beach house, Wairarapa. 

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