Architecture+Women NZ member Natasha Markham of MAUD

Next to take the mic in our ongoing series is an accomplished lady indeed.
What with running her own practice (MAUD — Markham Architecture & Urban Design), co-hosting a podcast (76 Small Rooms), parenting and everything else, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland architect Natasha Markham definitely needs the good breakfast and strong coffee she says keep her firing on all cylinders. She also thinks she might need to say no more, but luckily she didn’t start with us when we asked…
What was your journey to establishing MAUD in 2015? After graduating from the University of Auckland, I worked at Cook Sargisson & Pirie and got registered while I was there. It was a great place to learn the ropes, as Marsh [Cook] and Peter [Sargisson]’s approach was to throw you in at the deep end, so I quickly found myself on building sites and in client meetings as well as working on documentation.
From there, I went to London and worked in a larger practice on medium-density housing. I’d always loved cities, but that really piqued my interest in urban design, so when I returned to New Zealand, I enrolled in the Master of Urban Design at the University of Auckland, where I studied part-time while taking on private architectural jobs.
I then worked for local government, which was a very different experience. We were looking at strategic planning for centres and the wider region, and considering how the form and design of places could accommodate population growth over the next 20-plus years.
Founding MAUD was largely a pragmatic decision. Having my own practice allowed me flexibility when my sons were young, and meant I could take on both architectural and urban design work without being pigeonholed. Interestingly, I think working in each discipline has informed and strengthened my approach to the other.
MAIN IMAGE, TOP & ABOVE “I think our projects are characterised by how they feel, rather than how they look,” says Natasha. “We think a lot about how our clients want to live and work, and seek to design spaces that make that easy.” MAUD’s Twin Peaks project updated an Edwardian villa in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland’s Herne Bay, for which an addition was conceived as a series of small forms that enclose a leafy courtyard. Heritage bricks clad the central kitchen and living area, and inspire the warmth of the interior material palette that includes walnut timber and brass.

What are some of your key concerns when designing? Environmental considerations are an increasingly important aspect of our work. We’ve experimented with using recycled materials in a few of our renovation projects now, ensuring they’re used in a contemporary way to keep that good friction. I love it when there are multiple reasons for settling on a design decision, and reusing materials is one way to respond to the history of a place and sustainability concerns, while creating something beautiful and unique in the process.

ABOVE Major Minor was a project that slotted a new minor dwelling into the spot once occupied by the garage wing of a 1980s South Auckland home designed by Ron Sang. The addition to the existing footprint is a stair pop-out that has panels set into its walls for passive ventilation.

You also co-host podcast 76 Small Rooms with Jeremy Hansen, Mat Brown and Richard Archbold — what does that entail? The podcast is a passion project that started on a whim and is still going strong seven years on, mostly because we’ve all become good friends and also, because everyone is super busy, we’re very loose about when episodes are released. We’re interested in architecture-related stories and current issues, and centre our episodes around those themes. In truth, I initially agreed to take part because it scared the living daylights out of me, but I said yes because I like a challenge and my desire to be a part of a conversation about architecture was just a little bit stronger than my fear and loathing of being recorded. I still can’t listen to myself, though!

You’re also on the Auckland Urban Design Panel and the Hobsonville and Auckland Housing Programme Design Review panels… I’ve been involved with urban design review panels for a number of years now. It’s an opportunity to contribute to the future quality of our city and to improve living environments for all. As we move to denser models of living, the quality of the spaces between our buildings and how architecture shapes that becomes even more important. 

TOP & ABOVE Turning a small bedroom into extra storage and a luxurious ensuite for a couple of busy parents, this renovation in the Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn located the bathroom behind a new wardrobe; it’s ingeniously accessed by a pivot door that offers no hint of what’s behind it.

Have you faced challenges as a woman in this industry? I think the challenges for women working in any industry are far more nuanced than I imagined when I first graduated, in part because some of the barriers are baked in at a societal level. To that end, organisations like Architecture+Women NZ are great at bringing important conversations to the fore in a constructive way.
I’m in a position now where I can provide some support to my peers and younger women coming through, and that’s really rewarding. I think the opportunities for women in architecture are broadening and I’m seeing more women doing things on their own terms, which is exciting because it’s redefining the paths to and measures of success.

What’s your ambition for your career? That’s an interesting question. I think more than ever, I’m interested in the journey rather than the destination.

What secrets to professional success can you share for anyone in any vocation? Be true to yourself and operate with integrity, be curious, and be open to opportunity, even if it takes you on a different path to the one you had planned.;

Photography Sam Hartnett

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