Wellington architect Judi Keith-Brown is the new President of Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA).
Keith-Brown is the third female president of the NZIA, which was established in 1905 to represent architects and promote
the cause of architecture in New Zealand. The 4,500-strong membership of the NZIA includes more than 90 percent of the
country’s registered architects, along with hundreds of students and graduates.
Keith-Brown succeeds Auckland architect Tim Melville as NZIA President. She takes up her two-year role at a testing time
for her profession, the wider construction industry and the whole economy.
“Over the past two months architects, along with our clients, have had to adapt to our immediate Covid circumstances,”
Keith-Brown says, “but we have also had time to reflect on the wider issues affecting our lives and work.”
“Of course, we are not alone in this. All around the country, people will have been thinking about their homes and their
workplaces, their communities and cities.”
“The lockdown showed New Zealanders really care about this place and about each other,” Keith-Brown says. “This level of
commitment is reflected in the huge social and economic investment the government has announced.”
“As President of the NZIA, I will be advocating for sustainable outcomes from the building programme undertaken by the
government, and by private developers.”
“The NZIA’s members are eager to contribute their design skills and problem-solving abilities to help clients realise
projects of enduring value.”
Keith-Brown says it is essential that the investment in public and private housing produces good results for individuals
“Most of my own work has been residential, and I have always thought our houses are our most important buildings,”
Keith-Brown says. “After the lockdown, I believe this even more strongly.”
“I’ve been getting calls from clients who have been spending a lot of time in their houses, and are very glad they have
houses they enjoy being in.”
“This should be the goal for all the housing we design and build in New Zealand.”
Keith-Brown brings a broad range of experiences and achievements to her position as NZIA President.
A graduate of the School of Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), Keith-Brown was employed by an
architecture firm in the capital before living for three years in Glasgow, where she worked on large public housing
On her return to Wellington, Keith-Brown practised as an architect, taught at the VUW School of Architecture for 10
years and, with her husband Ewan Brown, also an architect, raised two young sons.
Keith-Brown says her experience in balancing professional and family responsibilities has strengthened her determination
to promote the advancement of females in the architecture profession.
For the past decade, Keith-Brown has run her own architecture practice in a collaborative working space she established
a decade ago and, which, she says, is proving to be an effective model for a Covid-era office environment.
Keith-Brown has also served as an assessor and convenor for the New Zealand Registered Architects Board and continued to
review the projects of VUW architecture students.
Keith-Brown cites two Wellington architects, the late Ian Athfield and Bill Alington, as influences on her career.
“I admired Ath for the humanity of his architecture, and Bill for his carefully considered and modest designs. He has
been a true mentor for many of us.”
As for architectural sites that have made an impression on her, Keith-Brown says she has been fortunate to visit such
inspiring buildings as Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House in Scotland, Oscar Niemeyer’s blue church in Brasilia and
the Chagall chapel at the United Nations in New York, the Eames House in Los Angeles and Harry Seidler’s house for his
mother in Sydney.
“But most recently, I’ve really liked an Eastbourne house alteration by Wellington architect Liz Wallace for a disabled
client who is permanently housebound. Liz’s design allows light from a turquoise-tiled pool to play on the ceiling of
the room in which the client spends most of her time.”
“It is such a beautiful space, and for me this project is a wonderful demonstration of the difference architects can
make to the lives of the people they work for,” Keith-Brown says.
“It is an outstanding example of the professional service I will champion in my term as President of the Institute of