United States Speaking Tour

                          New York – Spring Street                                           The High Line

Recently I visited North America on a speaking tour for the university that spanned both coasts and a wide array of architecture. Two of the places I visited on the East Coast couldn’t have been more different – New Hampshire and New York – they perfectly illustrated my lectures on ‘genius loci’ and the meaning and prevailing atmosphere of a place.

New Hampshire Gothic

Architectural Engineering

As Architect in Residence at University of Canterbury, the inaugural delivery of my Masters Course on Integrated Design has now been completed. It was a pleasure to teach a class of highly motivated engineering post-grads.

We were also lucky to have so many professionals involved, giving guest lectures and participating in one of the assignments.

The course is being repeated in the first semester 2016 with enrolments now open.

More information »

What if… buying a house became more affordable?

  • What if housing was more affordable?
  • What if housing solutions were more achievable?
  • What if architects and engineers could contribute creatively to the supply of housing, and at the same time, improve the environment?
The affordability of housing has featured in news headlines consistently throughout the year. But, despite the high media profile, few satisfactory answers have been offered and the dream of owning a home has, for many New Zealanders, been pushed further and further beyond reach.

But is owning a single family unit on a single piece of land the appropriate goal for all New Zealanders to aspire to at this point in the 21st century? Is this crisis really an opportunity to rethink the nation’s goals not just in terms of housing but in terms of all the environmental and social factors that are present alongside housing? With an unprecedented demand to develop new homes in the Auckland region, and the complex housing requirements of Christchurch’s rebuild, surely this point in time can be seen as not a crisis but a strategic opportunity for New Zealanders to address the way we design, build and invest in houses.

As part of my role as Architect in Residence, Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering at the University of Canterbury I presented a lecture in September 2015 examining the crisis as portrayed in the media and investigated ways architects have responded to this urgent need, drawing on local and overseas examples.

Winners of the 2015 NZIA Local Awards for Canterbury

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Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 NZIA Local Awards for Canterbury, announced on Thursday night, 21 May, in Christchurch.

I was joined on the jury for the awards by Wellington architect Stuart Gardyne, Christchurch architects Justin Leadbetter and Maria Chen, and Christchurch engineer Helen Trappitt.

One thing that struck us was the number of projects that had been initiated prior to the earthquakes. Architects in Christchurch have been challenged. For them, as for many people trying to make things happen in Canterbury, opportunity has been partnered with frustration. They have had to re-imagine their work while negotiating significantly changed conditions and navigating a quite different course to completion. To develop a design and see it through such altered circumstances and still produce a meaningful building takes skill, patience and perseverance. The Architecture Awards celebrate the architects, their clients and collaborators in Canterbury who have excelled under these conditions.

Some of our comments on the winners:

The architect’s laudable approach to heritage architecture [of the Isaac Theatre Royal] is both respectful and skilful in its intervention. Many key heritage features of the existing building have been painstaking restored. Structural strengthening was concealed with precision. The seating circle was given a new pitch, providing a better viewing angle, while contemporary additions have been designed with clarity and functionality. The heritage value of this project is priceless and its undeniable charming presence in the city will be enjoyed by generations to come.

The Christchurch Botanic Garden Visitors Centre is a thoroughly contemporary building that strongly connects with the typology of traditional garden glasshouse buildings. The structure’s long form is an almost ethereal presence within the greenery of the gardens. Appropriately, botanic themes inform elements. The result is a thoroughly integrated work of architecture.

Hagley Oval is a striking new international cricket venue for Christchurch. The building unashamedly draws on precedent. The tensile roof membrane sports structure is a form instantly recognisable as a cricket venue. What gives the type credence here is the straightforward yet graceful handling of materials and details, giving the structure an expressive profile and a luminous interior.

The list of winners:

Commercial buildings
Three35,  Addington (Jasmax)
177 Victoria Street  (MAP)
Stranges and Glendenning Hill buildings, (Sheppard & Rout)
Young Hunter House (Sheppard & Rout)
Lyttelton Studio Retreat (Bull Osullivan Architecture)

Medical/Educational
Christchurch Eye Surgery Clinic (Wilson & Hill Architects)
Whareora, CPIT (Athfield Architects)
Kidsfirst, Diamond Harbour (Opus Architecture)
Te Kete Ika, Lincoln University, (Sheppard & Rout)
Munro House (1968) (Warren and Mahoney)
Knox Presbyterian Church Rebuild (Wilkie + Bruce Architects)
Merivale Retail (Thom Craig Architects)

Public buildings
Isaac Theatre Royal (Warren and Mahoney)
Hagley Oval Pavilion (Athfield Architects)
Christchurch Botanic Garden Visitors Centre (Patterson Associates)
Matariki, Canterbury University (Warren and Mahoney)
Secondary Data Centre, Canterbury University (Warren and Mahoney)
Ruataniwha Civic Centre, Kaiapoi (Warren and Mahoney)
Lincoln Library and Service Centre (Warren and Mahoney)
Twizel Public Toilets (DLA Architects)
Brooklands Lagoon Public Toilet (Opus Architecture)

Residential buildings
Villa Close (Thom Craig Architects)
Loudon Homestead (Sheppard & Rout)
Cashel Street Townhouses (Athfield Architects)
Warrander Studio, (First Light Studio, Makers of Architecture)

Pictured above: Cashel Street Townhouses by Athfield Architects

See all the winners at the NZIA site »

Nees Appointed Canterbury University’s Architect in Residence

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Some information about my new role in the Engineering Department at the University of Canterbury, where I am currently the Architect in Residence.


The University of Canterbury has appointed Christchurch architect Tim Nees as the inaugural Architect in Residence within its College of Engineering.

The residency has support from Sir Miles Warren’s Warren Architects Education Charitable Trust and from former graduate Jim Rutherford. Professor Mark Davidson, head of civil and natural resources engineering, says the trust and Rutherford have been crucial in creating the new position.

“The Architect in Residence will provide a catalyst for developing more systematic and effective interaction between the architectural and engineering professions. More specifically, this unique initiative will provide important opportunities to broaden the education of our engineering students in an architectural context.

“The residency will also contribute to our education and research activities in earthquake engineering at the postgraduate level, where UC has considerable expertise and there is a need to further develop that specialist expertise in an architectural context,’’ Professor Davidson says.

Nees is one of New Zealand’s highly respected architects and a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA). He was apprenticed to Ian Athfield at Athfield Architects in the 1980s. His work has won 20 NZIA Awards for Excellence in Architecture, including the top national award. Nees is a senior design architect on a wide range of commercial and residential projects in Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington.

“This is an honour to be the first architect in residence at the university at an exciting time of the Christchurch rebuild. Some of the world’s great cities have at some stage been rebuilt following significant disasters. They wouldn’t be the cities they are today had disaster not once struck them down,’’ Nees says.

“The great Fire of London enabled Christopher Wren to build St Paul’s Cathedral. Lisbon gained an elegant neo-classical city centre after their 18th century earthquake and deluge. Tokyo has been rebuilt several times following earthquakes and fires. Napier has become known as New Zealand’s charming art deco city, after the devastating 1930s earthquake. What most of these rebuilds achieved was a consistency of urban space and urban fabric.

“Christchurch’s rebuild should be less a discussion about architectural style and more a discussion about consistency and the quality of urban space. If the city can support a vibrant city life and provide spaces where people want to be, the built backdrop becomes less important.

“It is when the design of city buildings is unsympathetic or intrusive and negatively affects the quality of urban life – whether that is due to the way the building relates to the spaces around it, or the way it affects views and wind and sun – that the urban quality is reduced.

“Riverside walks, lane ways and squares, the way cars are routed through the city – if these things are done well then a building’s integration in the street is more important than its individual style. One would hope that, in time, the buildings that are being built will relate well to the city they are making and achieve an overall consistency of city fabric. But this needn’t be a consistency of style. Urban environments can be enriched by the unexpected.

“There are unprecedented opportunities in Christchurch, though the ride has been bumpy. It’s not only unfair, but unwise, to expect the process to be fast. Cities evolve through time. Yet it is exciting watching buildings going up in Victoria Street and Durham Street, and realise that this is a complete new city fabric unfolding.’’

Tim Nees: Architect in Residence, Management Board Member of Studio Christchurch, convenor of the Canterbury Architectural Awards

Keeping busy: Tim’s other roles

Architect in Residence

I’ve been the Architect in Residence at the College of Engineering, University of Canterbury, since the end of July.

My main role is to facilitate closer engagement and collaboration between engineers and architects.

An interview was recently published on Scoop.

Read the article »


Management Board of Studio Christchurch

I’ve also been appointed to the Management Board of Studio Christchurch, a cooperative group between universities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The Management Board sets extracurricular projects based on urban research and proposed interventions in Christchurch city.

Studio Christchurch Website »


Convenor of the Canterbury Architectural Awards

I am also on the Canterbury Branch Committee of the NZIA and over summer will be the convenor of the Canterbury Architectural Awards.

NZIA Awards Website »