That’s A for Architect

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When Queenstown architects announce they’re off to an AA meeting don’t assume it’s Alcoholics Anonymous.
That’s because this year a dozen young architects have started a practice support group called Architects Anonymous Queenstown.

AAQ member Ryan Cardno explains both Queenstown and Arrowtown architects already had their own support groups.

“But as a group of young architects we felt there was a void we wanted to fill – and the older [Queenstown] group was already maxed out with people.”

Like other architects’ support groups, AAQ provides the continuous education that’s a requirement of their profession.

Members meet on the first Monday of every month.

“One person each month has to have a subject to talk about,” fellow member Sian Taylor says.

“If there’s something that comes up that’s particularly relevant, then that takes over.”

One example this year was Queenstown Lakes District Council’s urban design strategy, which AAQ submitted on. Members felt the strategy didn’t address Queenstown’s “unique urban quality”.

“It also seemed to be quite confusing in its outcome,” Taylor says.

“It didn’t seem to say, ‘This is where we’re going’.”

AAQ members have also discussed the contentious issue of Arrowtown’s boundaries. Taylor: “There is the general feeling, let’s keep Arrowtown as it is, but if you want a sustainable community – for it to get a petrol station or little supermarkets and a few more little businesses so people don’t always have to drive back and forth to Queenstown – you actually need to reach a critical mass.

“Obviously you don’t want a sprawl, but perhaps restricting it too much isn’t the answer.”

That comment from an architect can sound self-serving, but Taylor says “you don’t necessarily just want things built for the sake of it”.

With the recession affecting the commercial sector, Cardno and Taylor confirm residential work is keeping local architects afloat.

Cardno: “Commercial always takes the big hit first, but I think it’s starting to come back.”

Clients, many from overseas, are taking advantage of the slowdown to build homes, Cardno says.

“Building companies are trying to hang on to their crews and are desperate for work – a lot of tenders are coming in lower than what you would have expected a couple of years ago.”

Naturally, Cardno and Taylor refute any perception architects are expensive or a waste of money.

Cardno: “What you get out of the process, I think, will end up probably saving you money.”

Taylor says you can look around a local subdivision like Lake Hayes Estate and tell if an architect designed a home “or someone’s come at it thinking, we like the look of this and we like the look of that, and it’s just an amalgamation of things.

“An architect will look at the site, look at where the sun’s coming from, at all the natural things that are occurring on that site, and make sure the building is responding specifically to that site.”

An architect can also ensure a building is sustainable, so saving on power bills, Taylor says.

AAQ members are happy that the Real Estate Agents Act 2008, which came into force a month ago, will crack down on agents claiming homes are architecturally-designed when they’re not.

Cardno: “It’s extremely common, which is unfortunate.”