The Thick of It

The Thick of It add

Working in Christchurch city has its challenges. It's dusty, broken and loud. The noises of buildings going up, and those coming down, have become the soundtrack to the working day. In amongst the clangs and shaking ground there are also moments of serenity. The now very clear skyline gives you a fantastic outlook to the Port Hills and the liveliness of the construction zone provides you with constant entertainment.

Set amid this place of transition is a small but very cool architecture practice led by two innovative young ADNZ practitioners - already making their mark on this changing city. Nicholas Mann and Michael John jointly own AO Architecture. They have three staff and a street front office in a heritage building located next door to the bustling Stranges Lane bar and restaurant complex.

"We set up AO Architecture post-earthquake in 2011. There were two reasons we were drawn to Christchurch's inner city. Firstly we wanted to be in the thick of it. Being in the hub of Christchurch’s past and future business district is great for networking - as we are always surrounded by developers and construction. Secondly, we love heritage buildings and there are not many of those remaining after the quakes. Bonnington House, where we have set up our practice, is a shining example of what was once standard affair in the inner city, it is great to be able to work in such a wonderful piece of Christchurch's history," says Nicholas.

"We didn't always feel this way, in the beginning we had to enter the red zone just to get into the office, but in the past four years things have changed for the better and there is now a lot more activity, positivity is building" says Michael.

Good friends, the pair of architectural designers went into business together when they were offered some work by friends looking to build.

"We started with a couple of projects but things snowballed pretty quickly. We now have several staff and are very busy. It all took off very quickly. But we aren't complaining!" says Nicholas.

The team have now had 150 plus projects through the company and had more than 85 built or under construction. The projects are a mix of residential and commercial and are all over the South Island, including Queenstown.

Christchurch is where their passions lie though and Nicholas and Michael are in particular very supportive of heritage projects getting a second chance in life.

"We have both always loved heritage work, losing so much has been a terrible shame. The Christchurch Art's Centre is really an unspoken hero. The project has just steamed ahead and looks great," says Michael.

"I also really love what is happening with the public spaces on the Avon" adds Nicholas. "There are some amazing, state-of-the-art buildings going up - they are quite impressive. There are some really talented designers working in Christchurch, we are proud to just be a part of it."

The two designers recently joined ADNZ as Professional Members. They say in the short time they have been a member of the organisation, it has already improved many of their in house practices which has enabled them to concentrate on what they do best - designing.

For more on AO Architecture visit: