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A lifelong designer

For many architects and architectural designers, an interest in design and the construction sector starts at a very young age. ADNZ Board Chair Tony Biesiek is no exception.

This week, Defign sat down with Tony to hear about his lifelong passion for design.

Tony's design journey started when he was just four years old and he began to sketch house plans, bunkers and trucks (his dad was a truck driver). As he got older, he started to experiment with constructing and building with wood, building huts, go-karts and any other creation that came to his mind. By the age of 15, he had his first big break - designing his parent's garage.

"I did the design and working drawings for the garage, and even got the building consent! It's something that really grabbed my interest, and I excelled in woodwork, tech drawing, maths and geography right through High School," says Tony.

After he finished school, Tony went on to study for a NZCD (Arch) at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki. After a short stint in oil and gas, and time spent as a Quantity Surveyor, Tony decided to follow his real passion - architecture.

"I turned my back on the big dollars, and took a 40% salary cut, but it was worth it. I took a new job as an Architectural Draughtsman in an up-and-coming practice, and had plenty of opportunities to grow. It wasn't long before I was in charge of ten staff and travelling the length of the country designing and managing projects. The principal of the practice spent a lot of time mentoring me and passing on his knowledge and design skills - things I will never forget. A lot of the way I do things is a direct result of what he taught me."

Fast forward to 2002, and Tony set up his own practice - Imagine Building Design - which has gone from strength to strength since its establishment.

"It was launched on the back of one small project, and 600-plus projects later, we are stronger than ever with a much bigger workload and many exciting commissions," says Tony.

Tony and the team promote themselves on the principle of 'relationship marketing'- with the majority of their commissions coming to them via referrals from existing clients.

"This method of marketing reflects our philosophy of creating quality relationships with clients. This is achieved by friendly, clear and up-front communication, matched with a high quality design service that meets the aesthetic, functional and financial requirements of the client."

One of Tony's most successful designs is the Kissick Apartments. This was an interesting project, with the site originally being occupied by a tired 1920s bungalow that was beyond saving. The brief required the demolition of this structure to make way for a slick city apartment with no timber framing.

This design came with a number of challenges including a five metre high retaining wall along the eastern boundary, plus the structure's placement on a very steep site with a big vertical rise.

"It was a matter of combining some clever, creative design, and good engineering to make a connection between the street and living spaces above - I think that's what made it such a successful design," says Tony.

Another of Tony's favourite designs is the Northcott Residence in New Plymouth. The clients required a new, modernist style house which would embrace their 1960s eclecticism and harness the panoramic ocean views.

"It was great to work with these particular clients as they provided a very clear brief which dovetailed easily into my design philosophy. Passionate clients like these are a lot of fun to work with as they are so enthused with the whole design process," says Tony.

One of Tony's favourite aspects of the design is the entry space, and the way masonry, timber and steel was used in this area.

"This really emphasised my beliefs that buildings should be tactile, not sterile. A house needs to have a special feel, and the texture, variation and colour that these materials give achieves this."

While word-of-mouth about the quality of Tony's design has quickly spread, his business also received a boost from his decision to sign up as a member of ADNZ in 2007. He says Imagine Building Design has benefited on many levels, including success in the ANDZ | Resene Architectural Design Awards and growth through CPD.

"I've also gained better leadership skills through my Board role where I have had the opportunity to work alongside some high achievers in this industry."

A more recent move was Tony's appointment to Chair of the organisation. In this role, he is the force behind the governance side of the organisation. He works alongside a Board of talented individuals, along with ADNZ CEO Astrid Andersen to develop and maintain an overview of strategy and issues.

"As Chair, I act as a link between the CEO and the Board. I thoroughly enjoy getting out and meeting with the Membership at our regional events, conferences and CPD events. Another area I am involved in is fostering the relationship between industry and Government that the CEO has established."

Tony says it's a busy, yet ultimately fulfilling role, where he has been able to play a part in the continued growth of the organisation.

"Part of the attraction is that it is a step up from being a Board member. It's a chance for me to grow personally and advance and develop my skill sets. But mostly it's about an opportunity to give back to ADNZ, and hopefully take it to new heights. I'd like to think that through my role and my time as Chair, I will leave the organisation in a better state than ever before."

Among Tony's goals for his term as Chair is to continue to boost membership growth and develop key relationships in central Government, providing excellent exposure and benefits for fellow ADNZ members.

For more information on Tony, check out his ADNZ profile