Dion grew up in rural South Auckland. He would sprint to primary school when training for cross-country runs and dash out to the shed for hockey sticks when frost was on the fields in Ardmore. He revelled in the freedom of unenclosed spaces and the close-knit community. These values continue to inform his work, even after shifting to North Auckland, international travel representing New Zealand as an Olympic hockey player in the Black Sticks and relocating to Ponsonby.
His familiarity with urban and rural settings throughout Auckland and his background in sports have refined his eye for residential buildings and community sports facilities. He strongly feels that form should always follow function, and consistently endeavours to design buildings that encourage a sense of community through structure.
“Having an intimate understanding about the subtleties of how people move within spaces, their energy and their activity, and how they utilise each area, is crucial to any kind of design.”
The Papatoetoe Sports Centre was a fascinating challenge for these reasons. It required areas for a variety of sports, indoor centres, a bistro and offices for administrators. Dion pushed for a future-proof, sustainable design that opened up the entire structure. This open flow gave the diverse range of members a sense of the different activities throughout the space and fostered a shared culture.
“It was really about peeling the building open and eliminating all the disengaged spaces so everyone had a sense of access. Architecture is about growing communities as well as constructing a building itself.”
For Dion, it’s the intricacy of spaces, history, scale, community, engagement and the individuals which are central in each project. And, when establishing Studio106 in 2009, it was no different. It’s still about working in an unenclosed creative space with tightly-knit team players. Even with precise insight into the most functional and elegant way to design sports and community facilities, residential buildings and airports, Dion’s still invested in a collaborative process. As both mentor and teammate, he brings us together on an even plane.