Design Eye: Leuschke Group Architects

Over the last three decades Leuschke Group Architects have produced many notable buildings throughout New Zealand, earning their reputation as one of the top architectural firms in the country. We spoke with co-founder Colin Leuschke to learn more about his business journey and the world of architecture.

NEWMARKET: Can you tell us about your background and how Leuschke Group Architects was established? COLIN: The genesis of Leuschke Group started in the early 1980’s and morphed into its present form around 2000. Lindy (my wife and co-founder) and I had returned from four years working in Canada and travelling in Europe as part of our traditional Kiwi OE. The firm has a corporate structure with the original shareholders being Lindy and Colin Leuschke and Brian Cocker. In 2019, three new shareholders, Andrew Craig, Alister Kitchen and Rob Knight joined the company to ensure its continuity into the future. The new shareholders bring a wealth of new talent and technical skills especially relating to design and the use of current and sophisticated CAD programmes.

N. Leuschke Group Architects have an impressive and diverse portfolio of buildings in New Zealand and across the globe, including the former Prime Minister John Key’s residence in Parnell. What have been your most memorable and/or proudest projects to date?

C. Memorable and proudest are difficult words for an architect. Memorable can be due to the difficulty of the project and proudest might be personal. The biggest challenge in our careers came with the commission to design Princes Wharf, a huge project
by any measure. We rose to the challenge and the buildings speak for themselves. There were huge challenges including the Asian financial crisis and the loss of the main contractor part way through construction. Lindy is very proud of a substantial house on the Costa Brava, Spain, which is just coming to completion. It has been a journey for her, working mostly remotely into a different culture but with so many similarities in how buildings are consented and built. She is looking forward to visiting instead of ‘Zooming’ the property once international travel is available.

N. As architects, you are responsible for transforming a concept into reality for your clients. Could you briefly run us through the key processes from your first client meeting through to the finished product?
C. As architects we realise, we are brokers. We broker money into bricks and mortar. Regardless of the typology or budgets, all owners look for value from their architect. It might be financial gain with developers, it might be effective value for money for a homeowner on a budget or it could be the aesthetic result for those lucky enough to be without financial constraints. Regardless, the process is the same. Listen to the client’s brief. Establish budgets and ambitions. Work through the process of design and documentation keeping these principles in mind.

N. What are your main sources of inspiration?
C. With nearly forty years of experience, we look past trends
and fashion to ensure every building satisfies the basic principles of excellent planning and construction assembly. Material choice, compliance with urban design protocols and town planning rules means the designs are contemporary. Reference to buildings designed by the many hundreds, if not thousands, of wonderful architects globally keeps our design appreciation alive. Possibly because of this we can never resist putting in some design features that make every building unique and aesthetically pleasing.

N. Leuschke Group Architects have picked up a number of notable awards from the NZIA over the last three decades. What do these awards mean to you and your business?
C. Awards are great. Being judged by peers who are very informed architecturally is very meaningful, and reinforces confidence in your professional skills. However, we have always believed client satisfaction is more important. If a project is successful the architect is likely to get repeat work from that client, his family, friends or colleagues, which is good for business.

N. Looking back to your first project in the early 1980’s, in comparison
to your current projects, what has changed in terms of design and trends in residential and commercial architecture?

C. The principles remain the same. Good planning and material choice along with excellent detailing are still paramount. The biggest changes are the much-improved availability of the variety of building materials and greater care to ensure the building is fit for purpose.

N. Do you have a favourite architect? If so, who?
C. We work on a wide range of building types from high rise apartments, high end coastal houses or commercial buildings. No one architect can be the universal favourite. With all the wonderful, talented architects in the world and easy access through the internet to their work, we enjoy referencing projects that are pertinent to what we are working on at the time.

N. The impacts of COVID on business have been felt far and wide. How have the subsequent results of the pandemic effected your business over the last year?

C. Last year was a rollercoaster ride. The first lockdown was met with anxiety and uncertainty. Most of our clients hit the pause button. This lasted a few months and then the effects of historically low interest rates and housing pressure made the phones run hot but with a degree of caution by clients.

By the end of 2020 caution was being cast to the wind and this year we have been fielding record numbers of enquiries.

N. What advice would you give to a budding architect?
C. If you really, really must be an architect, you must have a passion about it and be prepared for a lot of uncertainty and change through your career. Regardless, the practice of architecture can be very satisfying, although at times frustrating.

N. It’s 10am on Sunday morning, what would we find you doing?
C. Lindy is either in the garden or with one of her granddaughters, and I am usually playing golf, which is more frustrating than architecture!

N. What is next for Leuschke Group Architects?
C. The old guard is slowly but surely giving way to the new guard. This transition is intentionally taking time to ensure an easy and seamless transition to satisfy the most important people in our business, our clients.

N. What do you love most about having your office space in Newmarket?
C. We have had our office in Newmarket for approximately eighteen years. From time to time we have looked at moving but nothing can replace our location in Newmarket, the centre of Auckland. Road and rail transport for staff and clients alike allow us to employ staff from all over the Auckland region. Clients find the location convenient, but the biggest advantage is the huge choice of restaurants and cuisines to choose from for our lunch. This, coupled with the many shopping and banking opportunities makes working in Newmarket convenient and enjoyable. | 6 Eden Street

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