Ian Athfield

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Ian Athfield
Born 15 July 1940
Nationality New Zealand New Zealand
Alma mater University of Auckland
Practice Athfield Architects

Ian Charles Athfield, CNZM (born 15 July 1940), is a New Zealand architect. He was born in Christchurch and graduated from the University of Auckland in 1963 with a Diploma of Architecture. That same year he joined Structon Group Architects, and he became a partner in 1965. In 1968 he was a principal partner in setting up Athfield Architects with Ian Dickson and Graeme John Boucher (Manson).


In 1965 Athfield started work on his first major project, Athfield House, for his family and a studio. Located in Khandallah, Wellington, this distinctive group of structures stands out amongst neighbouring conventional suburban houses. His early projects were constructed with a broad palette of materials including corrugated iron, plaster, stainless steel and fibre glass. As a reaction to much of the bland "Modern" architecture of the period, Athfield built in a deliberately vernacular style using features harking back to colonial buildings. His designs incorporated finials, steeply pitched roofs, timber weatherboards, verandahs and double hung windows. He was also inspired by the architecture of the Greek Islands with their exterior envelopes of continuous plaster and small windows. Conversely, he also much admired the work of Mies van der Rohe with their precise and refined detailing of industrial materials.

Yet another area of influence was the geometric massing of the Japanese Metabolists. Athfield combined all these disparate elements into a highly eclectic and personal style. During the 1970s Athfield built and renovated numerous domestic houses and buildings, developing a distinctive and highly personal design approach based on the repetition of small scale elements and complex massing. Critical opposition to these 'cartoon houses' did not bother him (Manson). Another criticism of Athfield's houses were that they were built for charm and not practicality. Athfield believed, however, that "in a house, you should get a surprise every time you turn a corner and look up" (Manson).

Wellington City Library

Athfield's practice expanded during the 1980s from mainly residential work to a wider variety of community and commercial buildings. As well as continuing to work on small-scale projects, his portfolio has included churches, pubs, council flats, stadiums and commercial high-rise buildings. Athfields best known works include Telecom Towers, Civic Square and Wellington Library, Jade Stadium in Christchurch and work on the design of the Bangkok rapid transport system.

He is a past President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, judges many design competitions and is a keynote speaker at many overseas conferences. His firm's current projects include Chews Lane Precinct, the Wellington Overseas Passenger Terminal redevelopment and the Wellington Marine Education Centre.

A documentary on Athfield, Architect of Dreams, has been produced for the NZ Documentary Festival. [1]

Following the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Athfield was appointed as an Architectural Ambassador to Christchurch.[1]


Athfield has won over 60 national and international architecture and design awards. In 1976 he won first prize in the International Competition for the Urban Environment of Developing Countries. In 1978 he was placed first equal in a Low Cost Housing Design Competition in Fiji. Athfield was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1996.[2] He received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997 from The University of Auckland.[3] Over the years he has won 13 NZIA Supreme Awards for his outstanding architectural projects. In 2004 he won the New Zealand Institute of Architects’ highest honour, the Gold Medal. Athfield was the first New Zealand architect to register as an APEC architect.

Notable works[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Christchurch City Council - Architectural Ambassador appointed (1pm, 14 September 2010)
  2. ^ Queen's Birthday Honours List 1996. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  3. ^ "Ian Athfield - DipArch". University of Auckland. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Architect of Dreams, directed by Geoffrey Cawthorn, produced by Richard Riddiford.
  5. ^ Clyde Quay Wharf Apartments
  6. ^ Colliers Real Estate listing - Kate Sheppard Exchange
  7. ^ Calman, Matt. "$90m plan for new waterfront tower". The Dominion Post. 9 October 2008

External links[edit]