Bureaux’s Maggie Carroll and Jessica Walker on their architecture journey

Join us for a chat with the Architecture+Women NZ members about their practice.

What led you to your careers in architecture? Jess: Strangely, we’d both planned to study medicine, but somewhat inadvertently ended up at the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture, thanks to chance conversations and the realisation that it’d be a good fit for our shared love of arts and sciences.

MAIN IMAGE Maggie (left) and Jess. Maggie describes Bureaux’s aesthetic as “Enduring, textured, playful and crafted. There’s always been a passion for and interest in the detail.” Portrait photography by Anna Kidman. ABOVE Bureaux’s Lower Shotover House in Queenstown is clad with schist to withstand the weather and reflect the landscape. Photography: Jackie Meiring.

You’ve been running your Auckland-based practice Bureaux together since 2010 — how has it evolved over the years? Maggie: We started with just the two of us working collaboratively, and founded Bureaux in the aftermath of the GFC, when most architectural studios were scrambling to stay alive.
It was a magical time, because we were young and carefree, and the financial climate was so perilous that we had the opportunity not to care about money and just run with ideas and experiment with architecture, interiors and events. We worked hard and sometimes for free, but it was worth it.
During that time, we were fortunate to establish some long-lasting client relationships, and have since earned a reputation for our commitment to the industry, to design and to people. Today, we’re proud of growing Bureaux to become a talented team of 11.

ABOVE Bendemeer House, near Arrowtown, references the mountains behind it and the region’s rural buildings. Photography by Simon Devitt.

Do you work together on projects or divide and conquer? Jess: We love the journeys we go on with our clients, and those initial discussions and sparking of ideas is something we really enjoy doing together. Depending on the scale of the project and the other work we’re involved in, we then divide and deliver along with the Bureaux team.

You work on everything from buildings to the bespoke furniture inside them — what do you enjoy most about this approach? Jess: We believe good architecture isn’t just about the bones of a building. We love that we can fully realise our vision for each project, and the chairs you sit on and plates you eat off are all part of it. 

TOP The practice’s Remuera Townhouse project involved the modernisation of a 1980s Auckland home by architect Marshall Cook, with a design that focused on layering textures. ABOVE Attention to texture, light and shadow also came into play in this interior. Photography: Jackie Meiring.

How has Aotearoa’s architecture industry changed since you started your careers? Maggie: Clients are very educated these days and technology plays a much more significant role in the design and manufacture process. When we graduated from university, cardboard models were the key tool for communicating 3D forms to clients, and hand-drawn building consents could still be submitted to councils.
As professional women and employers, we’ve also witnessed a huge shift in the conversation around gender and equality in the past decade. We’ve always operated with the belief that our work should speak for itself and we shouldn’t be treated differently to our male colleagues; however, we recognise that we’ve had a privileged experience in this compared to others. We’re acutely aware that we’re now in a powerful position to help drive change in our industry, foster equality and diversity, and help our peers to reset their own standards.

The work-life juggle is challenging for everyone — how do you make it work for your families? Maggie: What we’ve learned is there’s no magic formula — life will always serve you a healthy dose of chaos when you least expect it! So we try to create an atmosphere of kindness, openness and understanding in our team. There are times when you need to focus on family before anything else, and we have an inspiring, empathetic crew who support each other and us in this. 

What are your hopes for your future with Bureaux? Jess: We just want to continue to create spaces and places that make people happy, provide a sense of home, nurture and nourish. We have a more sustainable future in mind that looks beyond individual needs, and we also want to promote a healthy and flexible working culture within the industry.;

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