Q&A with Phil Rowe, Cox Architecture

What’s your favourite project in the world?

An almost impossible question to ask an Architect! So many amazing projects, each excelling in their own, context-specific ways. I suppose if I really needed to whittle down the options I’d frame the question in terms of what work I feel is best addressing the most pervasive challenges of our time in terms of the built environment. Recognising this, the critical question we need to face in the development of our future cities is how we accommodate sustainable growth.

We, as the designers of our cities can either chose to be inclusive of our environment, or not. Obviously for me this is a rhetorical question as I don’t think you can be any sort of designer with a conscience and ignore this imperative. In this context the Bosco Verticale in Milan is an amazing achievement. It comprises 400 homes on only a 2000m2 footprint yet contains enough vertical landscape to mimic 2ha of forest.

I believe this is one of an increasing number of projects that represent successful approaches to urban forestation and more importantly, the start of a truly mainstream dialog on sustainable growth and regeneration of our Urban habitat.

What excites you about ICD’s Federal St project?

The challenge that has been posed to us by ICD’s Auckland legacy project is one that requires us to address the deeper relevance of place and how we, as designers of cities, can improve and inspire the future of Auckland. It has to be done in a very Auckland way rather than importing what is perceived by fashion to be ‘best practice’.

The building will be a visual icon for what Auckland can and will look like in the future. Federal Street encompasses the major themes of cultural relevance, innovation and legacy. These fundamentals will be expressed for all to see on a city skyline where ‘sky homes’ and unique amenity, for both residents and a wider community, can excite Auckland about a bright future of city-dwelling, specifically relevant to the way Auckland lives, works and plays.

These are all key elements that describe a project of true legacy, as opposed to one which is cookie-cutter purely for profit.

What do you think is the most exciting thing in store for Auckland’s future? 

The world is seeking unique experiences. NZ is the world’s playground of adventure and Auckland is its gateway. In an increasingly homogenised world and one where nature’s diverse riches are increasingly under threat, the importance of sense of place and how to maintain this unique world identity is essential for Auckland’s future.

Universally appreciated ethics and morals, an integrated culture which values diversity, a strong economy, good education, enriching tourism, the world’s best rugby team and now the America’s Cup will ensure the spotlight shines even brighter on the city.

Perhaps the most exciting thing is that all this global interest is clearly based on an appreciation of Auckland remaining Auckland – not tied to its past, but using its uniqueness and diversity as stimulus and impetus for growth – and specifically growth in its own unique and authentic way.

See the Cox Architecture design

Bobby Kennedy