Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects - Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland

20 Years in the Business of Architecture

29 March 2017

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It’s a milestone year for Herriot Melhuish O'Neill Architects, formerly known as Herriot+Melhuish Architecture. The practice, established in 1997 by John Melhuish and Max Herriot, has just added long-term director Duval O’Neill to its name, rebranded and opened an Auckland studio. April also marks the company’s 20th birthday.

While the practice’s headquarters remain in Wellington, just this month the Auckland studio opened in Parnell led by new director, Matt Pearson. The Christchurch office was established twelve years ago and is managed by Duval O’Neill. Duval, whose own home was destroyed and rebuilt due to the Christchurch earthquake, also designed the award-winning Clifton Hill House, a New Zealand Home of the Year finalist. The project was just underway when the earthquake hit but in the down to earth and collaborative style that typifies HMOA’s values, it carried on. Duval recalls it being very tough but says of HMOA’s success and resilience over 20 years, “We all believe in the craft of architecture and all have a similar approach. It’s not about a style or trend but an approach that focuses on an honesty of materials and a commitment to finding appropriate solutions for our clients”.

It’s become a joke in the profession that architects have one of the highest divorce rates, and anyone involved in this demanding industry understands why—especially if they are self-employed. So surviving and thriving after 20 years in business is something Herriot, Melhuish, O’Neill Architects is rightly proud of. Founding directors John Melhuish and Max Herriot have seen plenty of ups and downs across those two decades, with the global financial crisis a particularly challenging time for most small to medium-sized practices. John says, “Our team downsized considerably and it was really hard on everyone. Our focus shifted more to residential work and commercial interiors. We’ve built back up again and currently have projects across New Zealand, ranging from multi-unit housing and other commercial developments to new homes and, one of my favourites, the Riddiford Pavilion and public toilets for Hutt City Council, “I’m sure that every architect craves the opportunity to design a public toilet once in their career!”. John and Max’s earliest collaborations include the NZIA award-winning commercial projects 10 Cambridge TceNZ Academy of Fine Arts and Nga Waka Winery.

Herriot Melhuish O’Neill worked with graphic designer and branding consultant Jacqui Colley on its new look, which draws on the directors’ love of the New Zealand environment and stunning landscapes. An artist herself, Jacqui says that early on in the process, Colin McCahon’s wash drawings in charcoals and sand colours struck a chord with them and informed the new logo, “It was work they grew up with and resonated the ideas we’d been discussing about ‘place’. As well as being outdoors enthusiasts, the directors are also art lovers and I wanted to reflect that. Just like artists, these architects also produce beautifully crafted and extremely considered work”.

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Duval O'Neill, John Melhuish, Max Herriot and Matt Pearson

Max and John low res3

John and Max started HMA in 1997

Max John Duval

Max, Duval and John