11 Questions with Daniel Marshall

From BlackWhite magazine - issue 05, over the rainbow

Daniel shares more about what makes a great project, the most inspiring place he’s ever visited and what he would do with more time in the day.

When we think of architects that have a brilliant way of using bold colours to punctuate their projects, architect Daniel Marshall is always among the first to come to mind. And we’re certainly not the only fans of his striking buildings.

Along with being recognised by the NZIA Awards, Home of the Year, the Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand Awards, the International Property Awards and the Trends International Design Awards, Daniel’s work has also received nods at the Resene Total Colour Awards, where his projects have taken home top honours for best residential interior and residential exterior.

1) Did you always want to be an architect?

I spent my formative years, from ages 10 to 18, living in Havelock North. As somewhere to grow up, it was architecturally rich – both in terms of the landscape as well as the brilliant residential projects there. My best friend lived in a John Scott house, and my mother dragged us off to church at Our Lady of Lourdes (which was Scott’s precursor to Futuna Chapel). As a child, I spent a lot of time alone playing with Lego and drawing. And along with my father being an engineer and mother an art teacher, I guess those factors made my gravitation toward architecture inevitable.

2) What are your favourite types of projects to work on and why?

Each project is unique and challenging, and that is what makes our profession interesting. There is never an opportunity to get bored. I love it when we have the rare confluence of an interested client and a building team that appreciates the craft of construction. That is where you can have true collaboration and the details and materials begin to sing; where architecture transcends into an art.

3) Are there any projects that stand out as being highlights of your career so far?

I kind of see our work as a continuum, where current projects are descendants of previous projects, so having a favourite is a little like loving one of your children more than the others. You are not supposed to, but you still can’t help it! The thing that makes all our projects special is experiencing them over time, like coming back to a project 10 or 20 years after completing it and finding that it still resonates. There are a number of projects that I am very proud of that I wish the rest of the world could see but sometimes the privacy of our clients is the priority.

4) What do you think are some of the biggest challenges the industry is facing right now? Do you see any opportunities in those challenges to do things better than we were doing them before?

There is a Chinese curse that can be paraphrased as ‘may you live in interesting times’ and I think we are definitely living in interesting times! There are significant challenges facing the construction industry right now, particularly in the realms of massive cultural and environmental shifts. Architecture is a generalist discipline and every project has almost infinite parametric influences. I feel that the big challenge is that perhaps some people are losing sight of architecture as an art form. Without challenging architecture, then there is a danger that achieving all sorts of other checklists will result in a banal living environment that does not raise the human spirit.

5) What do you do if you feel stuck during a project, creatively speaking? Anything you might recommend to a less experienced designer to shake themselves out of it?

Walk away from the problem; it will continue to percolate within, but sometimes we cannot force a solution. The answer will come when you least expect it. Also, and this is very important: draw without thinking or even seeing.

6) If someone could wave a magic wand and grant you more hours in the day, what would you do?

I really enjoy working in the physical realm, doing landscaping, gardening, building and crafting. So I think if I had more hours, I may craft a little too much!

7) What is the most inspiring place you’ve ever visited and what made it special?

I have always gained incredible inspiration visiting masterworks by past architects and that has been all over the world, from Finland to Brazil. I think if I had to pick a place that was most inspiring for cultural history, art, architecture and landscape, it would have to be Mexico. To visit Luis Barragán’s own house in Mexico City is to almost touch perfection. André Breton described Mexico as ‘the surrealist country’ and I tend to agree.

8) If you could have dinner with one design icon – past or present, alive or not – who would it be and what do you imagine you would talk about?

I think I would have to listen to the sage advice, ‘never meet your heroes’. Sometimes the imagined person is a lot better to have dinner with.

9) Do you have any interesting stories to share about the neighbouring businesses around your office on Auckland’s Karangahape Road – particularly the one beneath it?

Some of my colleagues joke that I love to place hurdles in the way of getting clients, and I guess you could look at it that way. To enter into our office, one has to run the gauntlet of adult shops and colourful characters on the street – only to be accosted by my dogs when you get up the stairs. But the thing I remember about the first time I came here was the contrast between the activity on the street and the calmness in the office space. Architecture is essentially about contrast and composition. Also, a precedent was set by Oscar Neimeyer, the brilliant Brazilian architect whose office in Copacabana was situated in the heart of the red-light district.

10) What do you love about Resene?

As a specifier, I always prefer to seek out multigenerational New Zealand companies, which of course Resene is. I think architecture is all about relationships and communication, a belief that a company will stand with you if something doesn’t perform as expected. We have been working with Resene for 20+ years so that is probably the clearest recommendation anyone can give.

11) What are your current favourite Resene colours?

I am really into trying to incorporate strong colour schemes into projects at present. I think sometimes people play it safe with colour because of a lack of confidence. I love strong yellows and pinks against the rough neutrality of concrete, so colours like Resene Bright Spark and Resene Irresistible are among my current favourites.