Chippy-turned-architect wins highest architecture honour


Architect Dave Strachan, who has just been awarded the NZIA 2020 Gold Medal, designed the award-winning Boathouses in Takapuna. The house references the owners’ love of yachting culture, and opens and closes in response to shifts in the weather.

It may be the worst-kept secret in architectural circles, but now the news is out – the architect nicknamed “Four-by-two” at architecture school has won New Zealand’s highest honour for an individual architect.

Auckland architect Dave Strachan of Strachan Group Architects (SGA) has been awarded the 2020 Gold Medal by Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA).

He joins a list of celebrated architects, including John Scott (1999), Sir Ian Athfield (2004), Roger Walker (2016) and Jeremy Salmond (2018).

Known for his practical origins as a self-taught builder, Strachan accepted the Gold Medal at a function on 25 February.

“The excellent body of work for which Dave’s practice has received many architectural, Master Builders and interior design awards speaks for itself; but it is his contribution to the profession, to the wider industry, to communities, to aspiring students, and to those who have had the privilege of working with him that make him a worthy recipient of the Gold Medal,” said Te Kāhui Whaihanga past president Tim Meville, who also paid tribute to Strachan’s passion for sustainability.

Strachan talked his way into architecture school

Born in Feilding in 1953, and raised in Te Awamutu, Strachan entered the University of Auckland School of Architecture in the 1970s after a year spent working as a builder – and experience that opened his eyes to the possibility of architecture as a career and prompted the nickname that followed.

Despite not having the necessary qualifications, Strachan talked his way onto the course by convincing the head of the School of Architecture, the late Allan Wild, to let him in.

After finishing his Bachelor of Architecture and also getting his teaching diploma, Strachan started a design and-build company called The Architecture Shop in 1980. He spent the next two decades designing, building, travelling, honing his craft and working in the industry.

His interest in and talent for passing on his knowledge made Strachan a successful adjunct professor at Unitec School of Architecture between 2005-2015, where he led the Studio 19 programme, which allowed architecture students to get hands-on experience building their own designs.

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