Inspiration From Nature

Friday, October 30, 2015

Queenstown architect Fred Van Brandenburg recounted his journey from “stage set architecture” to architecture inspired by nature, triggered by a “cathartic moment” in 2004 while looking around Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona.

“No other space or man-made objects have inspired me so.  I saw structural solutions created by intersecting forms that seemed spontaneous; so natural – yet controlled by specific geometry.  What I saw on that day in 2004 was the source of a change within me, like an unfurling fern synonymous with the New Zealand emblem.”

His early work can be seen at Millbrook, The Rydges, Huka Lodge and Wharekauhau. But now gone are the straight lines in favour of shapes inspired by waves, leaves, shells and other shapes of nature – all underpinned by the four critical geometric principles of Gaudi. As long as these are strictly applied, “you know it can be built”.

A year after his cathartic moment, he also discovered a new practical way to work that fundamentally changed his approach. Using a laser cutter instead of building models by hand. As Gaudi did, modelling first and drawing later. He now uses a 3-D printer.

Currently, Van Brandenburg and his staff are consumed by his Marisfrolg fashion design headquarters in China. Inspired by a bird in flight and with a happily unlimited budget, this 120,000 m² (four times the size of Te Papa) design project will have occupied him for a decade before it is finished in around three years’ time.

The planning process, he says, is basically the same. “Just the envelope changes, in terms of the use inside of it, there is no real departure from my usual planning process.”

Drone footage of Marisfrolg:

Venice Biennale clip:


595 Frankton Road Project: