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Neville committed to inspiring design

Kim Stewart Nov 11
The design for New Plymouth-based EFS Accounting’s offi ces uses bold blocks of colour to highlight structural features.
The design for New Plymouth-based EFS Accounting’s offices uses bold blocks of colour to highlight structural features.

Neville Saunders loves being an architect and though approaching an age when many would consider taking a well-earned rest from the demands that come with creating great design, he is committed to remaining very active in the profession.

Based in Papamoa, Bay of Plenty, Saunders Architects is a boutique practice that is responsible for creating many beautifully designed early childhood centres for Kindercare and private operators.

“I guess the main thing we do is listen to the client’s wishes. Each one has a different philosophy and we design specifically around the principles of creating really cool spaces for children to be welcomed into.”

Neville’s history designing play and education spaces for our youngest citizens to grow in extends back 30 years and he has seen significant evolutions in the building blocks that make for great design.

“In many ways you are catering for the parents of the children who want to see an empathetic environment that feels like a home. We reflect this in the size of spaces we create, especially when some of the centres we have cater for many children. Even the choice of colours is much more like what you would find at home.”

One of the reasons Neville says he enjoys designing for Kindercare is their underpinning philosophy, “Because children matter.”

Neville’s history in the profession tracks back to the seventies where he completed a NZCD at CIT Technology school in Wellington, then completed a Bachelor of Architecture, graduating in 1980. His practise has operated since 1983.

Firstly based in Auckland for 13 years followed by a shift to Taranaki for 25 years. The move to the Bay of Plenty happened last year and Neville says it’s been a really positive move.

“There is so much building happening here that I can’t see it letting up. I think my best years in design are ahead of me. Just look at Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, who did their best work in their “aged” years.”

While early childhood centre design remains a core activity Neville says he enjoys work as a General Practice Architect.

“We designed a wonderful Kindercare centre that opened June last year at Wigram Christchurch. Built in the shape of a boomerang to mirror the land the centre is right in the middle of a shopping centre. Another stand-out project was a beautiful 600sqm home which I designed for my sister in Queens own.”

Another design, for New Plymouth based company EFS Accounting showcases Neville’s attention to using colour in striking ways with bold blocks of colour highlighting one structural feature from another.

When Neville moved his practice to the Bay of Plenty, staff member Chilean-born architect Mauro came with him. “We’re a small practice that takes on a wide range of projects and that’s how we like it.”

And while he feels architects in New Zealand lead the world when it comes to residential design Neville says commercial and civic design is less appealing.

“I think in part it comes down to our small size as a nation when it comes to investment in public buildings.” After all these years, Neville is clear on one matter.

He would never design a building that is ugly and when asked for opinion on the quality of residential design in many of our suburbs Neville says it is depressing.

“I live in a suburb and it is like a plague over the country to see the cookie-cutter mentality that duplicates poorly designed stock houses.”

Neville says it is very satisfying to hear from clients years after he designed their home that they are still in love with their homes. and never want to leave.

“That’s what happens when you follow the processes of great design and that’s what you learn when you train as an architect.” “We believe great relationships create great teams, and great teams create great projects”

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