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8 Questions with Architect Sarah Hewlett-Diprose

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Sarah Hewlett Diprose is an Architect at Warren and Mahoney, a multi-disciplinary architectural and design practice. Having been with the practice for over 15 years, Sarah holds the senior position of Associate and has been involved in numerous award-winning educational and commercial projects throughout New Zealand’s north island.

 1. How did your career in Architecture come about?

I was a painting/art history student torn between going to Elam or Architecture School. Frustrated at the subjective nature of art and lack of appealing career options, I chose architecture. The creativity, scale, depth of engagement and technical component enticed me. I love the collaborative design process required, working with clients and consultants to deliver the very best solution possible within the time, cost and quality parameters that inform all projects.

  2. What influences your signature design style?

I am a firm believer that Architecture should respond to its specific context, in particular the nuances of the site. The solution for a secondary school in an urban environment will be quite different for a secondary school in a rural setting. Similarly, the building itself should look different on all sides as it responds to the sites variances, optimising positive attributes of the site; daylight, prevailing breezes and topography. Working within a wider school campus also requires respect for the scale, materiality and physical position of the surrounding buildings. I’m also particularly interested where modern learning is taking us. For example, the move from formal to informal learning environments offers opportunities for a variety of collaborative spaces recognising learning is no longer a linear process but about engagement and integration.   

 3. Who inspires you?

Those who continuously strive to raise the bar, to exceed expectations. Kunle Adeyemi’s design of a floating school in the historic water-based community of Makoko, Nigeria, inspires through its ability to address contextual physical and social needs in view of the growing challenges of climate change. Providing local children access to the opportunity for education. In addition to using local materials and skills, it is designed to use renewable energy, to recycle waste and harvest rainwater. Clients from the education sector inspire in their pursuit of excellence. There is a sense of responsibility to provide the opportunities and challenges to ensure each and every student reaches their full potential.   

 4. What is it about Education and Commercial projects that made you decide to specialise in those fields?

Educational projects are incredibly rewarding. There is a real joy in working with schools who are committed to creating quality learning environments that enrich a student’s education, better still when they view the building itself as a tool for learning. Typically educational projects are many years in the making and it is a privilege to be part of the journey.

 5. How do you promote sustainability in your buildings?

Sustainability should be integral to all design solutions. I am continually looking to provide sustainable solutions on projects, be it through building orientation, durable materials, water conservation, renewable/low energy systems or structural solutions that provide for greater future flexibility. I believe we have a responsibility to “touch the earth lightly”. I instinctively find myself inspired by nature and seek to have a clear strategy for minimizing environmental impact.  

 6. The market can be very competitive for Architectural Graduates entering the job market, what advice would you offer them?

In the NZ context, learn Revit and if you think you’ve mastered it, learn some more. That said, we should never lose sight that CAD systems such as Revit are simply a communication tool. Without a sound knowledge of how buildings go together, Revit skills will only get you so far.

 7. With the Auckland market being so buoyant, what career advice could you give to Architectural Graduates still developing their career?

The risk is becoming complacent, thinking that there are a lot of jobs and always will be. Now is the time to make your mark and stand out from your peers. A focused work ethic applies as much today as it ever has.

 8. What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?

Creating beautiful timeless architecture, with a strong sense of place that exceeds client expectations.


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