Gina Jones, (FNZIA, FNZIOB) is a Registered Architect, the former Chair of the NZIOB Charitable Trust, and inaugural National President of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). With governance experience that is singularly construction focused, Gina enjoys every aspect of a construction project especially the build phase.
With a strong creative flair and her formidable range of skills, Gina has an extensive background, which includes the role of National President of the New Zealand Institute of Building (NZIOB) and being awarded the prestigious NZIOB Medal (2009). Gina founded Accent Architects and ran the practice for 22 years, with her earlier career spent at Ampersand Architects (Director) via TWIA Architects (Graduate/Associate). Gina has taught Professional Practice (post Graduate) at VUW’s School of Architecture, and has deepened her governance capability by completing several Institute of Directors (IoD) training courses.
We sat down and had a chat with Gina and wanted to know about her journey, what makes her tick and where she wants to be.
Where did you grow up and what led you to the field of architecture?
“I grew up in Wellington and went to Onslow College. My Father was a Civil Engineer and he had suggested architecture as a potential career for me. I was very good at art and math at school, and so I was keen on pursuing graphic art but I think my father feared I would be an impoverished artist. So he suggested architecture and I had to admit there aren’t really many other subjects that marry those subjects together as well. I studied at Victoria University in Wellington.”
What are you working on right now?
“I am currently working through over 100 different litigation and seismic projects in Masterton. I don’t have any active projects in Wellington after the completion of the QT project.”
What is your design philosophy?
“When designing, it is very important to me that it works well for the people who are using it. Being user-friendly is more important to me than how it looks; a project would not be successful to me if it didn’t work for the people who are using it.”
What would your dream project be?
“A combination of heritage and art. I’d really like to be involved in a big heritage project (I’ve previously done some small ones), especially being on the construction site of a really big project, but I don’t think that would happen now because I’m so allergic to dust! I love seeing projects take shape from beginning to end. The design and construction phases are definitely my favourite.”
Case study QT project:
“ I was the project manager for the QT Hotel in Wellington. It began as standard rooms then they decided very late in the piece that they wanted to have a competition to select an artist to display their work in each room. They enlisted a well-known art critic to manage the artists, who did a fantastic job. He and I coordinated the art into the construction phase and it turned out really well, an amazing project overall.”
Where do you see yourself in 20 years’ time?
“Hopefully retired! I’d really like to design a house from scratch in the Wairarapa ideally. I know it would be a costly endeavour because of my love for high quality materials, so my husband and I have compromised and agreed to renovate our small workers cottage (90sqm cottage with a small garage and art studio that actually won a small architecture award a few years ago) to make it into a home. I have been working on the design for that and adding a swimming pool, a wardrobe and a place for all my books. But I possibly won’t be retired in 20 years’ time as I want to keep going and keep my mind sharp.”
What are your 5 favourite things (What kind of things eg. designs, hobbies, buildings?) ? What was your first big/favourite project?
What was your first/most memorable project?
“My first project was BNZ Te Aro with LT McGuinness. This is now the third generation running it so they have been around for a while. One of the sons of the original owners was the onsite manager and he was just fantastic at talking me through things. Now, 30 something years later, I still bump into him at functions and have a good catch up. It’s amazing that so many years later, the company is still great to deal with and have kept the quality of work at a high level. The next generation have the same attitude and work ethic. That was one of the main things I remembered about that first project which made the experience enjoyable and memorable.”
What is special about Catalyst to you?
“Catalyst has been great, especially at allowing such a flexible environment to allow me to do all my NZRAB work. Because I am aware, having been an employer myself, that these external commitments do require a lot of time so that has probably been the biggest thing for me. It is great that Catalyst is also open to all ideas and not too ridged. I am able to speak up about my ideas and will always have support from fellow team members.”
What has been your journey to the role you are in today?
“My parents split up as I was beginning my architecture intermediate, so I didn’t last long as I was unsure whether I was doing architecture because I wanted to – or because my Father wanted me to. I also hadn’t completed 7th form at High School and the Intermediate advisor said I was wasting my time even trying. I worked for a couple of years – one year at AMP (doing interbranch transfers) and one year at Broadcasting as a computer operator. The latter was great as they gave me a part-time job for the duration of my studies. When I went back to University, I was ready to be a student and got great grades.
At the end of my Bachelor of Building Science degree, I was offered a holiday job with one of my lecturers – it became a job I couldn’t leave and I eventually became an associate of that practice prior to going into business with my director (while doing by B Arch part time over three years). Eventually it came time for my lecturer/ business partner to retire – he had so much goodwill factored into the business it was far easier to leave the business and start my own one – which was Accent Architects in 1995. My husband joined me in the business around 2001 – he did all the things I didn’t really enjoy. It was hard work having both directors as partners in life as it restricted holidays etc. – I was not enjoying it as much as I had as there was too much running people and not enough running projects, so we made a decision to wind the business down – which took six years due to the projects we had. Just when I was pondering what my next move would be (and two weeks after our Accent Architects sign fell down from our Greytown office) I had a call from a recruiter who was looking after Catalyst and in search of someone who knew the Wairarapa. So here I am!”
“If you want a short version you could say an Aunt saw I loved designing buildings with my blocks (pre Lego days) and the rest is history……My interest in cars probably came from playing with a toy garage and cars my Grandmother had.”
What inspires you to get up in the morning?
“Knowing I am making a difference on a project – more so if there is a great project team.”
What are your role & duties with NZRAB? Why do you enjoy this role?
“I am Chair of the NZRAB – which again I really enjoy as I can see I am making a difference, at a time when the NZRAB needs to move into its next phase.”