Contemporary Sensibility

Contemporary Sensibility add

With Wellington based Holmes Construction as the family business, going back 60 years to his grandfather’s time, it was perhaps inevitable that Mike Holmes should forge his own way. After a brief but eventful high school career Mike found himself in the family trade, but resisted completing an apprenticeship, opting to travel around New Zealand and Australia working in hospitality instead.

With a young family on the way, however, he realised a less nocturnal career was appropriate and decided studying architecture might be a good way to combine his academic interests with his construction background. Holmes Architecture was up and operational by the time he completed his Masters at Victoria University.

Architectural design gives full play to his academic abilities, while not straying too far from that which he instinctively knows. Having also now qualified as a builder, Mike has fostered a deep understanding of construction and the built form, alongside the broader discipline of architecture and design. His love of Art, is clear in the confidence with which he angles his roof pitch, and creates a symphonic light and shade in the bold construction of his most adventurous works.

“I have a contemporary sensibility for the modern tradition. I like strong geometry, well resolved and not too fussy. I like simple detailing and believe modest materials and forms when detailed well can result in more than the sum of their parts.”

He takes a constructive interest in architectural journalism and wonders why more emphasis isn’t given to the real challenges – financial and emotional – that make up the story of residential and commercial design.

Architecture, he points out, does not spring up in isolation, but is first and foremost a response to, and a relationship with the client. “Something they don’t teach at Architecture school is the art of client interaction and design advocacy through design process. Sometimes you have to lead the horse to water, and make it drink as well. If not, it is a lost opportunity.”

As Holmes Architecture, with two full-time designers and an intern, moves into custom built office studios and showroom, it is clear that Mike Holmes, while indebted to the solid base of his family construction business, has truly flown the coop and emerged as a mature architectural designer, in his own right.

Mike Holmes is a member of Architectural Designers New Zealand. For more on his profile visit:

This profile originally featured in Issue 6 of Defign Magazine. Out now.

Words by Deborah Nation.