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This hilltop home at Lake Wanaka has distinct European style

Article by Home Magazine

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.

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