Interview: Hamish Muir Mason & Wales Architects

By on June 20, 2017

How long have you been involved with Mason & Wales and working on projects within the region?

Effectively for all of my life.  I am a third generation architect.  My grandfather Clifford Muir designed and built a family crib near Eely Point in the early 1950’s and my Father designed a new crib in the early 1990’s.  As a child I visited construction sites for Mason & Wales projects designed by my father Ashley Muir including; the Pines Resort, DOC Buildings, Criffel Station, and many houses.

I graduated from the Victoria University School of Architecture in the class of 2001, then worked for an architectural practice in Wellington before traveling overseas and returned to Otago in 2005 to join Mason&Wales Architects.  I became a registered architect in 2006 and have been actively involved as an architect in the region ever since, with a wide range of projects currently in progress.


What is the most rewarding part of your role with Mason & Wales?

Opportunities to work with great Clients and Contractors.  It is very rewarding for everyone involved in a project as a building starts to take shape on site.


As with real estate, communication is critical – what are the key ingredients for a good brief from the outset?

Briefs come in all shapes and sizes, so we encourage clients to put together whatever they feel comfortable with as a starting point.  It is important to understand that Briefing and Concept Design stages are ‘processes’ that can develop and evolve as drawings and dialogue establish parameters and identify opportunities for each project.  Where possible we like to develop a ‘performance’ brief that describes how the property will be used, rather than a ‘prescriptive’ list of rooms.


What trends are you predicting in the architecture field this year?

Local trends will include a response to the increasing awareness and demand for environmentally sustainable design, with high performance thermal envelopes and low energy buildings becoming more standard practice.  Space planning efficiencies to rationalise building size will continue to serve as an effective way to manage budgets while still satisfying specification levels and amenity expectations.  As construction costs continue to rise, project budgets will require an increasing amount of management and communication.


Where do you drawing inspiration from when designing?

Anything and everything.


What is your favourite architectural building in the world and why? 

Tough question, as there are many.  A building that comes to mind is the Tate Modern in London, by architects Herzog and De Meuron. I visited it again recently and will definitely be going back.


Best place to get coffee in Wanaka?

Urban Grind


Name 5 people (dead or alive) you’d invite to a dinner party.

Victoria Muir

Gordon Ramsay

John Key

Frank Lloyd Wright

Ian Athfield


What recent work have you been most proud of and why??

A House at Wyuna Preserve that we completed in 2013 for an overseas client. The project was an opportunity to work with some of the best consultants, contractors and craftspeople in the region and a generous budget to deliver a brief of ‘New Zealand, not New York’ for an inspirational client.  See here. 

The success of this collaboration has led on to a number of significant projects, including a new residence for the same client in Scotland which is due to be completed later this year.  See here.




Does Wanaka differ from other NZ regions for your line of work?  If so, how so?

Yes – an understanding of a resort town with distinct differences between permanent and holiday residents and visitors, combined with outdoor lifestyles and four distinct seasons, is fundamental to the good quality design and construction of buildings in the region.  Our Wanaka projects include cribs and permanent residences, which sometimes evolve from one to the other over time.  Wanaka clients typically have a unique character, style and lifestyles, that differ to other parts of the country, including those on the other side of the Crown Range.


What is Wanaka best kept secret?

Secret fishing spots on our incredible lake.


Best advice for people moving to Wanaka?

Talk to a local architect.


It’s 10am on a Sunday morning, where would we find you and what are you doing?

Hopefully on my mountain bike, but more likely in a Land Rover hunting for a good coffee.


Favourite time of year in Wanaka and why?

Autumn for its colours, settled weather and shimmery lake.


Hamish can be contacted on  See more of Mason & Wales work here.



mitch campbell

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