Built in 1973 by freshly graduated architect Ashley Muir, this almost medieval home overlooking Lake Wanaka is still striking four decades on. We talk to Ashley about the unique project
Q&A with Ashley Muir of Mason & Wales Architects
Lois and Rolfe Mills were keen on a “young architect who listened”. How many houses did you have under your belt before this one?
Lois and Rolfe, and another couple, provided the ultimate gift to a newly graduated architect – they commissioned me to design a building. I instantly realised the huge trust that they had placedin me. I needed to listen. This was a serious undertaking and Rolfe and Lois needed the utmost respect, insight and thoughtfulness in the work that I did for them, and for all of my other clients since.
You spent a lot of time talking about the house before you started designing. How did that influence your practice on subsequent projects?
Conversations with the client – whether for a house or a commercial building – provide all sorts of insights into what a client really wants. I was once engaged to design a warehouse with a budget of $25 million and what the client told me, in two meetings, indicated to me that they didn’t need a warehouse at all – they simply needed to load their products into a container for transport to the customer. They didn’t build the warehouse.
The house attracted a bit of local consternation at the time – have you experienced anything similar since?
Now the public conversations are different. The fixation is with size or cost.
What are you working on these days?
I’ve always been a general practitioner so I am working with clients on many houses all over New Zealand and on a handful of large commercial buildings, hotels and apartment buildings.
Words by: Matt Philp. Photography by: Simon Devitt.