Having achieved her ultimate dream, Jenny Duck’s helping others live theirs by bringing big-city thinking to the Bay’s beach houses.


Architect, Jenny Duck.

When she puts it this way, professional athletes and architects don’t seem too dissimilar.

“It’s amazing what sport can teach you – goal setting, responsibility, team work,” says Jenny Duck. “I’d go to the gym, work, run at lunchtime, work, then go to the turf at night. I was young and crazy back then, but I’m so glad I did it. It was my dream to go to the Olympics.”

Okay, so most registered architects don’t fit their corporate career around a professional sporting one, but Jenny’s no ordinary architect. Having represented New Zealand in hockey for more than 10 years, competing at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the 2000 Sydney Olympics (“my last hurrah”), she’s now focusing her attention on a new venture in the Bay – leading Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects’ new Tauranga studio. The award-winning practice also has offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and is helping to push the Diversity Agenda (driven by the New Zealand Institute of Architects), which aims to see 20 percent more women taking up architecture roles by 2021.

Located in Peka Peka on the Kapiti Coast, this eco-friendly black-stained, cedar-clad home has incredible views of Kapiti Island, forestry and farmland, and is perfectly positioned to maximise the outlook and shelter. Photo: Jason Mann.

Jenny began her career in Christchurch, where she worked as an architectural draughtsperson. “A few years down the track, I was intrigued by parts of the industry I hadn’t yet mastered, so in 2008 I returned home to Wellington and got my Bachelor of Architecture degree,” she says. “After several years of varied experience, I became a registered architect.”

Down in Raumati Beach is this bach that contains all the necessities within a thoughtful design that ensures it’s not just a summer house. In winter, it becomes a cosy vantage point from which to watch storms roll in while the open fire blazes. Photo: Paul McCredie.

Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects (HMOA) employs both registered architects and recent architectural graduates. The journey to becoming a registered architect can take up to 15 years, but the training, experience and skill all come together when designing a home for someone – the biggest investment most of us will ever make. Working with an architect is a collaborative process. A good architect will maximise the potential of your site and budget, regardless of size, taking into account sustainable building practices, the environment and the quality of your materials.

Jenny was an integral part of HMOA’s Christchurch practice, but jumped at the chance to open a new studio in Tauranga. She and her partner made the move in 2016. “I’ve now got the best of both worlds – a relaxed lifestyle that lets me enjoy the outdoors, coupled with the expertise of my colleagues in other cities,” she says.

At this beach house in Riversdale, Wairarapa, space is maximised to accommodate the owner’s 11 adult children, from ample storage to multiple decks for sun and shelter. Photo: Jason Mann.

For now, Jenny is the sole face of HMOA Tauranga, but the firm has a team of 30, including directors who regularly visit the Bay of Plenty. The team works on a range of projects around the country, such as houses, apartments, schools and other commercial work. The focus in the Bay is on new homes and alterations.

With climate change and coastal erosion at the forefront of many beachfront property owners’ minds, this house in Hawke’s Bay’s Waimarama is designed to be relocatable. Photo: Richard Brimer.

Jenny offers a fresh, contemporary perspective on the traditional Kiwi bach. “We’ve done holiday homes in many locations and climates, from Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago to West Auckland, the Wairarapa and the Kapiti Coast,” she says.

“Great architecture is all about specific design for specific situations. There’s no point in having huge bedrooms down the back of the house if your family spend a lot of time in the living areas. Small elements, like a window with a framed view of an ocean break or positioning your home to find a sheltered spot from the sea breeze, can make a huge difference.”