Matthew Stannard moved to Seattle on a whim. “It was recommended by other travellers. It had Boeing. There was talk of a small company called Microsoft doing well. It was a laidback place,” he explains.
So Stannard, an architect who grew up in Wellington and worked in London for architect Sir Terry Farrell, settled in the city with his wife 27 years ago. He spent 14 years at Olson Kundig, a renowned Seattle architecture firm.
“I learned my craft; how to detail and how to design houses, working out details so they work. The aesthetic was very clean,” explains Stannard, 54.
In 2004, he started his own practice. Stannard Architects employs five staff now; current projects include a 17-unit condominium in Anchorage, Alaska, a 650m² house and a quirky Seattle bird-watching room. Through Stannard’s other business, Stillwater Dwellings, he creates modular homes that are affordable but good-looking.
“Single-family residential, custom-made homes are so complicated and inefficient,” says Stannard. “Technological revolutions have bypassed architecture. We have perfected a process that comes down to needing only a few meetings and a site visit; it all happens in three meetings.”
Stannard’s office is a bungalow in a boat-building area in the city; home is a 1919 bungalow 10 minutes’ drive away, in the suburb of Wallingford. He and his wife are empty nesters, as their two daughters are at university in California. Once a year, Stannard puts down a hangi for 150 ex-pat New Zealanders and their families in his role as Seattle’s hangi master.
“In some ways, it’s a lot like New Zealand,” he says of Seattle’s architectural vernacular. “The northwest [of the US] is heavily influenced by Japan, which influences New Zealand. There’s an open modernism, less urbanism and a tradition of the single-family home.”
For an insider’s guide to Seattle, click here.