Michael's family has been in the building industry for five generations - he grew up around architecture and fondly remembers running around in foundation trenches with his brother, climbing timber frames and jumping onto bagged bales of Pink Batts.
“I think what I got out of all of that was a fascination for space and buildings as they come into being, and that extends now into the beginnings of a project with drawings and models," he says.
His study has been a long, but impressive process - he first completed a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Auckland in 1994, then he was awarded a Master of Architecture in 2003 at the Architectural Association in London, before recently completing a practice-based PhD in Architecture and Design at RMIT in Melbourne.
Michael's first architecture job was with Richard Priest Architects in 1995 where he worked with well-known architects such as Daniel Marshall, Sarah Shand and Andrew Lister, among many others. He stayed there for three years, became a registered architect and then spent some time working in different parts of the world.
"I surfed in Indonesia for a while and spent a season in Whistler snow-boarding before finding myself through a weird combination of will and luck, in Amsterdam at the end of 1999."
There he worked for Bjame Mastenbroek (now SeArch) for a couple of years before heading to the Architectural Association's Design Research Laboratory. After finishing there, Michael returned to Amsterdam where he set up his own practice - Ark.
"After about 18 months in Amsterdam, we packed up the business and brought it to New Zealand where a lot of opportunities were starting to open up. But, as is always the way, a couple of the architecture projects we had set up, fell over almost as soon as I got home."
Michael asked Mike Linzey at the University of Auckland if he was interested in taking him on to co-teach a design studio with him.
"That started my relationship with the University, and now my official title is 'Director: Architecture Programmes' and I am thoroughly enjoying the role.'
Michael's position at the University combined with his PhD has taken up a lot of his time, and he says as a result, Ark has slowed down.
"We are still managing to produce projects that we are happy with, but my task over the coming few years is to bring the business into balance with my academic practice," he says.
Although finding that ideal balance is tough, Michael and his team have managed to produce some very impressive work such as the Albany House project on Auckland's North Shore. The four bedroom-plus-granny flat home was challenging due to the unusual triangular shape and difficult slope of the site. Michael says it was important to establish a good, integrative relationship between the site and the structure.
"The project adopted a simple form underlined by good realisation in the detail. It negotiates the complexity of the site through interior spaces that step to meet exterior terraces cut into the site."
Another of Michael's recent successful projects is the Langs Bach north of Auckland. The original house that stood on the site dated back to the 1930s and had been in the same family for generations. Over time the house had become run-down and the clients required the site to be cleared to make way for something new for their children to grow into, but budget was an issue.
"We ran it as a design and build type contract. It was particularly tricky to wear both hats when you have a critical design agenda and a limited budget. We ended up making some very good decisions about where we spent resources including re-using the timber from the original house," says Michael.
Overall, Michael and his team were very happy with the outcome. They set out to invert the typology of the over-scaled 'wedding cake' house with the tack-on pergola and deck, and ended up with a large timber terrace under a timber pergola.
Michael's next big project is his role as a member of the judging panel for the regional and national ADNZ | Resene Architectural Design Awards alongside Duncan Joiner - Chief Architect at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and celebrated Architectural Designer and ADNZ Life Member, Graham Sawell.
"It's a privilege to be able to contribute to design culture in New Zealand in this way. I am hoping we may see in the projects, clarity of design intent carried all the way through into the detail of the built outcome. Over the past few years these awards have seen some really clever energy-efficient designs and I hope that we see more of that in this year's entries as well."
Keep an eye on Defign blog, and follow the ADNZ Facebook page for updates on the ADNZ | Resene Architectural Design Awards.