A+W NZ Interview with Chair of Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Auckland Branch, Megan RuleBack
A+W NZ Interview with Chair of Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Auckland Branch, Megan Rule
main image: Megan Rule in the studio. Photographer: Sam Hartnett
In May 2021, A+W NZ Co-Founder and former Co-Chair Megan Rule was elected Branch Chair of Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Auckland Branch. To mark the occasion, Vanessa Coxhead and Wing Chan conversed with Megan via a number of emails that opened up a generous dialogue about practice, solving problems and providing opportunities both in architecture and for our communities… as wide as they may be.
Tuvalu Community Church, a recent project by South Pacific Architecture and winner of a Public Architecture Award at the 2021 NZIA Auckland Architecture Awards. Photographer: Simon Devitt
Vanessa + Wing: Megan, you started your own practice, South Pacific Architecture, over 20 years ago — what made you take this step?
Megan: I was ready for the next step. I was attracted to initiating projects and exploring ideas or ideals, and I always knew I wanted to take a lead in projects whether that was within a practice, or independently. It seemed the most direct route was to start practicing this.
Vanessa + Wing: Was that a leap? Did you have experience in leadership positions or the running of a business, or did it come from a drive of wanting to do things differently?
Megan: I had grown up in an environment of having the responsibility of running a business (with response -ability) and I was aware that we could be an influencer of our own destiny. I was also aware it could be challenging, but that it could equally be rewarding.
From the outset I was interested in doing interesting work (whatever that was?) and I was attracted to opportunities that allowed for different approaches, but at the same time respect for the merits of our traditions. I have enjoyed collaborating from the outset on projects — we consistently learn from each other.
In terms of doing things differently, it’s more about gaining insight into our own genealogy and place and that this is beneficial in understanding who we are, what we offer our community. Architecture is literally built on this, and that is perhaps why concepts of kaitiakitanga around our environment seem familiar.
The Ground Is Talking To Us, an exhibition by South Pacific Architecture, Megan Rule + Julie Wilson at Objectspace as part of the NZIA Architecture Week Auckland 2020.
Vanessa + Wing: You've been involved in the wider architectural community for a long time, as a founding member of A+W NZ, holding various roles within the NZIA Auckland Branch, teaching, organising exhibitions, etc. What drives you to do this work?
Megan: I think it may be part of my own search for answers and better ways of doing what we do. I have found more satisfaction in acting to address my concerns, or others’ concerns, than to sit back dissatisfied with the status quo.
I enjoy collaborating, with a result.
Vanessa + Wing: So, you’re a ‘yes’ person?
Megan: I am not too often asked but tend to say yes to opportunities, often outside my comfort zone.
Most often I set out to solve a problem and find there isn’t a quick fix. It might require some advocacy.
Probably, when we are young, we have great visions of making a difference. I have much respect for our pioneers and I now see that the smaller things we each do in life can together make a big difference.
Vanessa + Wing: Congratulations on saying ‘yes’ to your new role! What are your aspirations for Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Auckland Branch while you are Chair?
Megan: At this point in time, I haven’t got a grand vision for my role. But I do have two markers; firstly, I would like the branch team to have license and support to expand their own roles and passions they enjoy and secondly, to seek good opportunities for us to all share in architecture what we are passionate about — be that between ourselves, or our wider communities.
I’ll be looking at and for ways to highlight and act on positive benefits.
Vanessa + Wing: That’s an ambitious start, and perhaps a conscious shift to weave in some of the values you have described previously.
Megan: The value of architecture has always been a nemesis for us. If we don't each value ourselves and the roles we bring to architecture, then how do we anticipate that our communities will value us?
Vanessa + Wing: What is one thing you're most excited about in taking on this new role?
Megan: Successfully navigating through the recent local awards and celebrating as many of us as possible in a widest range of areas of practice has been an immediate highlight. But it has also reminded me that perhaps this could be done more effectively in our largest branch in New Zealand by breaking the awards into several events such as commercial and housing sessions to accommodate an ever growing and rising quality of work in awards across Auckland.
This year it was great to see a bunch of new and young talent emerge amongst the awards, and I was delighted to see so many A+W NZ members gracing the stage!
Vanessa + Wing: On top of all of this, you must find some ways to switch off or relax, what has been your favourite thing you've read/done/seen recently?
Megan: Just before the first Covid-19 lockdown I was fortunate enough to complete the Tour Aotearoa, bikepacking from Cape Reinga to Bluff in under a month through a dynamic cross section of New Zealand. Aside from the physical challenge the trip provided an intimate insight into a core sample of New Zealand. It highlighted to me a regional disparity in the condition of our built architecture, but good clues or cues to a vernacular tradition.
Megan Rule is an architect and founding director of South Pacific Architecture, a multi-award winning Auckland-based practice whose work has spanned adaptive and new residential, cultural, community, waterfronts, mixed use, commercial, education, master planning, heritage and landscape in the UK and New Zealand. Since graduating with Honours from the University of Auckland School of Architecture in 1992, Megan has worked closely in consultation with community groups, Not For Profits, Habitat For Humanity, Architecture For Humanity, churches, clubs, pacific, Iwi, Ngā Aho, and accessibility organisations in Aotearoa and internationally. Megan is a co-founder and augural co-chair of A+W NZ, a Professional Teaching Fellow at UoA SoAP, NZRAB Examiner, and has recently been elected Chair of Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Auckland Branch.