"When I moved to Whitianga to give my children a small town upbringing and lifestyle, it was a big change from my bustling Auckland life and career. Prior to the move I had worked successfully in Auckland and Tauranga, focusing on interesting commercial projects. However, though Whitianga was a small town, my business kept busy, particularly during the summer months, and I have worked for myself for almost 11 years. When the opportunity came up to join Wingate + Farguhar, it was just too good an opportunity to turn down," says Geoff.
Geoff Brown is no new comer to the industry. He studied at Unitec in 1987 and has more than 25 years' experience in architectural design. He is also in his second year on the ADNZ board and has won several ADNZ awards, including a first time entrance award in 2006 for his work on a Whitianga home called Buffalo Beach Road House.
"Over the years I have pulled my inspiration from many sources; however a constant has been travel and the coastal environment. Anything coastal intrigues me. There is a particular breed of designer in NZ and Australia who enjoys work on coastal properties, understands the natural environment and can translate that into bricks and mortar. It might be the old number eight wire ethos, but New Zealanders like challenges and the coast has to be one of the most difficult places to build. But in return for taking it on, you get a peaceful, relaxed place to live - which also reminds you of holidays gone by," says Geoff.
Geoff was born in Invercargill, but raised in Dunedin's St Kilda which is where his fascination with the coast comes from. Not just passionate about coastal design, Geoff also feels a strong responsibility to ensure the builds he designs have an environmentally-friendly element.
"My design philosophy is centred on environmentally-friendly practice. I think stewardship is a good way to describe it. We are tasked with leaving the world in good shape for our kids. We have to be accountable for this now, because we won't be there to be held accountable later. Our footprint, our impact, what we leave behind has to be right, everything we do has to bear the future in mind."
According to Geoff, education on environmentally-friendly design and best practice is key - particularly for clients.
"People tend to be always focused on doing everything on the cheap. And this can ultimately have a massive effect on the success of a project. A budget doesn't have to be astronomical, but it does have to allow for good design. In the long run good design and implementing environmentally-friendly practice will reward in the years to come. Employing a designer that is right for the client's project, the site and that can realise their dream is most important. One of my favourite moments of the design process is bringing a client a design that meets their brief but that also brings something more to the table - that goes beyond expectations. That is how a designer ultimately adds value.
His experience is not all about luxury seaside properties, Geoff has a unique experience, in that he has produced designs for many changing facilities and toilet blocks.
"It's a funny one, I have worked on quite a few. However my most memorable would have to be a sports centre which needed a facility for 180 people to get changed at one time. It was a very controversial project which caused lots of issues for the local council. It was definitely challenging and if I do say so myself, cleverly resolved.
When asked what his dream project would be, Geoff said he had already completed it.
"A while back I worked on a farm house which had a brief, a decent budget but I had quite a lot of scope to come up with something that I thought would be great. Quite often you are very restricted by the brief, however this couple was very open to ideas. It became a dream project because it wasn't free of constraints but it allowed me to push myself and create something really special."