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Glen Frost Avery Team Architects Interview

12 March 2018

Crosby: Thank you Glen for taking the time to have a chat today. I know you are very busy, at least on our upcoming projects, so let’s get straight into it. I have run into Kerry Avery and the team on different projects over the years, can you give us a brief history and maybe some of Avery Team Architect’s accomplishments – I think you have even won some Property Council Awards?

Glen: Yes, ATA have been very active, particularly in Auckland since 1992, our specialties being residential, tourism, commercial and mixed-use projects.  We believe that thoughtful design is key to creating great places to live and work, as well as delivering commercially successful results for our clients.  As such we have won Property Council Awards for a range of project types.  Vert Apartments at the Ponsonby Bowling Club is a recent award winner.

Crosby: Nice sales pitch there. Tell me specifically about some of your residential projects?

Glen: We have delivered many multi-unit terrace and apartment projects as well as both modest and high-end individual homes. Multi-unit and mixed-use projects are particularly interesting, as they merge our commercial delivery skills and our residential design skills. 

Crosby: How so?

Glen: Well, where possible we undertake the master planning of larger projects – such as the Silverdale North Town Centre and Kumeu Town Centre currently under development.  This commercial Urban Design skillset transfers nicely to multi-unit residential projects, allowing us to deliver great individual homes that viewed together create attractive residential streets.  We are mindful that we are designing new homes that are part of the fabric of new communities, and we take this responsibility very seriously! Every design we deliver is tailored to suit the specific location and surroundings, the site conditions and end user needs. 

Crosby: We have only done a few apartment projects, but we are certainly expanding into more as Auckland ‘grows up’. How does your apartment experience help with designs on some of our other projects like terrace homes?

Glen: Our apartment design experience helps us to cleverly shape spaces, so they feel light and open.  Well located and proportioned windows, well defined spaces within an open plan arrangement, and minimisation of circulation space are just some of the key considerations in a pleasant (and efficient) house design.

Crosby: Yes, to maximise value we need to think about design very carefully, especially where homes are close in proximity. I think someone famous once said good design is as much about the spaces in between buildings as within.  Let’s dig into this a little deeper, taking our project at Belmont Park, Pukekohe what are three key things that you are proud of in its’ architecture?

Glen: Ok, firstly I am proud of the restraint shown on these designs.  The design response is a modern take on traditional gable housing forms, which sits comfortably in the Pukekohe suburban context. The facades are nicely composed and look great without the need for add-on gimmicks.  The mix of single and double level forms feels more like an established neighbourhood and evokes a very suburban feel that will complement existing larger-lot streets of Pukekohe.

Secondly, the duplex arrangement of houses maintains single house functionality that you just can’t achieve with terraces. With single and double level options, there is an option for anyone at any stage of life and any level of mobility, whether they be first home buyers, young families, or active retirees. 

For a third and I guess maybe even most importantly, each lot has been designed with orientation and privacy in mind.  Care has been taken to ensure each house receives good direct sunlight, there is a nice balance between connection to the street and private spaces to retreat to, and nice outdoor living spaces for entertaining and the kids to play.

Crosby: Well, we will test that in that market in early 2018. I must say the renders are looking great though, and that’s a credit to your thinking above.  To me the design sits respectfully in its surroundings and will age gracefully – and more than likely – valuably. Glen: So apart from our projects what is your focus at Avery’s now?

Glen: It is an exciting time at Avery’s.  As a business we have our eyes on the future and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to the shape of the firm going forward.  We are, and have always been very much focused on client and end-user outcomes as opposed to publicity and awards.  We consider every project to be a partnership and we have many repeat clients who value this approach.

From a design perspective, we pride ourselves on our ability to create something from nothing.  Assisting with strategy and maximising yields for our commercial/development clients; providing creative yet practical solutions for difficult sites.

My personal area of expertise is multi-unit residential projects – the main focus at the moment being on design efficiency while creating something less-ordinary that people will love to live in – i.e. the application of well known, durable building solutions in a new / creative / considered way.  My belief is that out of one pile of materials you can create something average or something great – I am aiming for great!  I also want these projects to help create great ‘places’ so being aware of what is going on around you is important.

Crosby: That’s a nice philosophy, so what drove you to study architecture and become an architect, to create greatness as you say, in the first place?

Glen: My father is a tradesman and I grew up around building sites and DIY projects.  That practical grounding and a love of making things naturally drove me towards designing buildings.  It’s funny, I never knew any architects as a kid, I couldn’t even name one when I made the choice to study architecture, and I really didn’t know what I was getting into.  Now, as an Architect, I aspire to positively contribute to the shape of existing and new communities.  New Zealand is a rapidly growing and evolving country and we have some real challenges - it is exciting to hopefully contribute a few solutions.  I understand the impact buildings have on the lives of those that live, work and play in and around them, and this drives me to deliver the best outcomes. 

Crosby: And what else keeps you on your toes?

Glen:  It’s a long list!  But in a nutshell:

I have a young family, and this has refocused me on longer term visions of what their world will be like – in turn the place of architecture in that picture.  I’m very interested in our natural environment, the impact we are having on it, and how we can more sustainably exist within it in the long term.  

I’m born and raised in South Auckland and enjoy getting involved in my local community, recently leading the charge to successfully have Hillpark recognised as a Special Character area in the Unitary Plan.

My other passions include getting out the tools and ‘making stuff’, outdoor pursuits (particularly cycling and mountain-biking), and music.

Crosby: Thanks Glen for providing us with a glimpse into your design driven world. That’s all from me, but I will give you the final word today, perhaps about Auckland’s future?

Glen: I can see the growing pains of Auckland, the stress this is creating through long commutes and cost of living, coupled with the impact this is having on the environment – both within the rural urban boundary and beyond.  I think the rubber band is getting pretty stretched – however, this will be the catalyst for change and I think we can see this happening already. 

Technology I think is the key to solving many of these problems – many of the solutions exist but take time to gain traction.  For example, technology allows us to work from anywhere, anytime, yet remain connected as though we sit side by side.  This will allow people to work from home, or close to home – meaning less time wasted commuting and more productive and leisure time.  I hope this might help decentralise the city and re-establish local centres as places to do business and socialise.  More time, more freedom, stronger local communities = better quality of life. 

 

 

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