Getting to Know Guy Marriage

Welcome to the latest installment of our Tri Two Talks! Just days from the beginning of the new trimester, we're continuing to celebrate our academic community.

Guy Marriage is an architect, author and lecturer. As a practicing architect he's worked for luminaries such as Lord Foster in London, he's been instrumental in the development of some of Wellington's best public spaces and he's starred in one of the most well loved episodes of Grand Designs NZ. 

This week we chatted to Guy Marriage about his book Tall: the Design and Construction of High-Rise Architecture which is the sole required textbook for the architecture department, his favourite buildings and what he likes best about campus life!


What is your day job?

I'm an Architect at heart, but a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University's School of Architecture, teaching construction by day.


What is your connection to Vic Books?

In whatever minutes of spare time I have, I'm also an author, and have just started my third book.

Vic Books is my wonderful partner in selling books - making my first book, Tall, such a good seller and an easily accessible resource for my class. I'm really hoping Vic Books will be part of the selling team for my second book too! (hint hint) It's called Modern Apartment Design out in time for Christmas.


What are you working on at the moment?

Book number three is a huge task for me - to write an authoritative guide to Medium Density Housing in New Zealand. It's called Medium. And then I think I may have a change of direction - after TALL, MAD, and Medium, I might look at Small... I'd love to think that I have a novel or two inside of me, fighting to get out, but it will probably end up being another book on architecture.


TALL is an essential textbook for SARC321 here on campus. What's the significance of this for you?

I wrote TALL as a text book for the class when I realised that there was absolutely no decent handbook on how to design and construct high-rise buildings, looking at the building process from the architecture student's point of view. No wonder the students were getting confused at how to make a tall building stand up and work well, as well as look good! I tested a few chapters on the class at first and then went all out on a full book. The students are now lapping it up - the only text book they buy at Architecture School, but I think they love it - or at least they tell me they do. I made it really easy to read, and filled it with great illustrations drawn by myself and a great student called Lauren Hayes - I chose her because she could produce these lovely clear, clean illustrations, and depict the parts of the building in a way that the other students could cotton onto. As a result it has been adopted as a text book not just for my class and other courses here at Vic, but also at other Schools of Architecture in NZ and across the ditch in Australia. Next battle is to get it into the hands of the American and Asian markets, where it has lots of potential - more tall buildings over there!


Tell us more about your particular interests in architecture?

At the time I was doing my training, Post-Modernism was the big thing, but thank goodness that is over. We're all post-Post-Modern now. I worked for a dozen years in London, with two or three years working on projects on the London Underground and a five year stint working for the greatest architect in the UK: Lord Norman Foster. I think I did about 10 years worth of work for Foster + Partners in those 5 years - they work their staff hard and get brilliant buildings out as a result. So, yes, I'm firmly a Modernist now (aren't we all?) but have worked on an extraordinarily wide range of building types - office buildings, apartments, houses, prefabricated construction systems, massive underground train stations and more. Right now, my students and I are trying to solve the really hard task of Affordable and Innovative housing systems within multi-storey architecture. It is a juicy nut to crack!

What's been your favourite academic or other collaboration on campus?

The Meridian First Light House was Victoria University's first and only entry for the Solar Decathlon in the USA (2011). A crack team of students entered a proposal, were invited to build it for real, and so set about getting a house designed, built, shipped to the USA, tuning completely off solar power only, and then returning it to Aotearoa. It is the world's most well-travelled house! That was an amazing project and I was able to join the team - we won five awards, and a bronze medal overall in our first "architecture olympics". It was a huge learning opportunity for all the students involved and a major PR success for Victoria University. I loved working with the lead bunch of students so much that we formed a company after the project completed, called First Light Studio, which is now one of the most innovative young architectural practices in the country.


What's the most notable architecture in Wellington for you? And New Zealand?

I'm most proud of the Meridian building which I worked on down on the waterfront - small scale (only 4 storeys high) but its a fun building both at ground level and above. Sadly much of the last 10 years has been spent with architects and engineers trying valiantly to strengthen buildings so that they don't collapse in the next big quake. Very little creative new work as a result - the Deloitte building on the Wellington Waterfront is an exception. It's a really clever combination of architecture and engineering in a collaboration between Studio Pacific and Dunning Thornton - and the result is both beautiful, clever, and very very strong.

Without a doubt though, the best building in Wellington - and in New Zealand - is the Futuna Chapel in Karori, by the late John Scott. It is a fascinating building as it is very much bicultural, as was John, but also it is just so clever. There is an interplay of walls, of structure, of solids and glass, and it was all built by the Marist priests back in the 1960s. If you see an open day advertised, take the opportunity to go and see it - it is small, but perfectly formed.


What's your favourite architecture on campus?

They haven't built it yet. The new Hub complex up at the main campus is great - such a huge improvement on what was there before - but we are awaiting for an equally great move to be made on the Te Aro campus, which is definitely lagging behind! I'm not holding my breath, but Te Aro deserves a great new building that is a worthy home for both students and staff. Fingers crossed we get it some day! Wouldn't it be nice to have the best architecture on offer at the Schools of Architecture and Design Innovation?


Best bit about campus life?

Dealing with students: young and full of enthusiasm for life. I'm not so keen on all the committee meetings that seem to also be part and parcel of the academic life. But the chance to do research with some of our incredibly clever younger generation is such a enjoyable process - they're going through the challenge of writing a design-led thesis, and they use us older folk as a bouncing board for some amazing ideas!


One piece of advice to your students?

Read my book. I tell then to have it besides their bed and to read it first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. But also: get outside more and have fun! Stop looking at your phone!


What future writing projects do you have planned?

I've tried to tackle the tricky subject of adult books: the architectural romance for instance. But every time I try to write romance it just turns into comedy, and then into farce. Then they cast Hugh Grant and make a film about it.


Some quick fire book recommendations please! 

Towards Compostela: Walking the Camino de Santiago by Catharina Van Bohemen

Built by Roma Agrawal

Cities for People by Jan Gehl

Perfume by Peter Suskind

Architecture Uncooked by Pip Cheshire and Patrick Reynolds

High-Rise by JG Ballard 

Te Poti Rō Pōtai by Dr Seuss

What are you reading at the moment?

I always have a stack of books at hand, to delve into at any given suitable moment. So, concurrently about six books: Kāpiti by Chris MacLean, Word Perfect by Susie Dent, Chicago Skyscrapers by Tom Leslie, Building Community: New Apartment Architecture by Michael Webb, The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars, and Te Poti Rō Pōtae by Dr Seuss, because I'm trying to learn to speak Te Reo.


What do you like about it?

Te Poti Rō Pōtae - or The Cat in the Hat by another name, is by far the most challenging right now. I'm just a beginner.


Which literary character do you most identify with?

Howard Roark, from The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.



The literary and film world's depictions of architects always make me laugh.


Hardback or paperback?



Favourite coffee?

I'm the only person in Wellington who does not drink coffee, despite my cousin writing several books about the subject. Check out The Coffee House: A Cultural History by Markman Ellis.

Meridian Building on Wellington Waterfront