Skip to main content

Kiwi legends of architecture and design featured in Dictionary of NZ Biography

Media release: 17 March 2022

Fourteen new entries featuring legendary architects, industrial and fashion designers, and inventors have been added to Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB).

DNZB is produced by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. It sits within Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, and its purpose is to capture the life stories of people who shaped Aotearoa New Zealand’s culture and history.

"Since its original publication in 1990, the collection has moved online and grown to over 3,000 entries on everyone from Antarctic explorers to Zoologists, and we’re adding new biographies all the time," said Manatū Taonga Pou Mataaho o Te Hua Acting Deputy Chief Executive Delivery, Neill Atkinson.

This latest batch of entries is edited by Pou Hītori Matua Senior Historian at Manatū Taonga, Elizabeth Cox, and features biographies of architects, inventors and designers written by contributing authors, including:

Safua Akeli Amaama on Joseph Churchward, a Samoan-born graphic designer whose internationally renowned typeface graced record covers, billboards, newspapers and popular literature during his lifetime and beyond.

Douglas Lloyd Jenkins on Avis Higgs, a leading figure in wartime textile design in Australia who became a New Zealand artist and designer of note upon her return to her native Wellington.

Avis Higgs in her New Zealand studio in 1973. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Natalie Smith on Kura Ensor, a fashion entrepreneur from Auckland, who was part of a renaissance in Māori-influenced design during the 1970s.

Gareth Phipps on Colin Murdoch, a Timaru-based inventor who revolutionised safety, convenience and cost-effectiveness of medical treatments for both humans and animals.

Ian Lochhead on Peter Beaven, one of the most prominent figures in New Zealand architecture, both as the designer of instantly recognisable buildings and as a commentator on architecture and urban design, particularly in Christchurch.

The captivating stories are supported by visual samples of the artists’ works. "It’s important that people are able to see for themselves what makes these artists and creators so extraordinary.

"Through these biographies, we hope that more Kiwis will discover remarkable people from our history who will fascinate and inspire them.

"Ngā mihi ki a koutou, a huge thank you to all our contributing authors. Their mahi will help ensure these individuals' contributions are better understood.

"In the coming months, we’ll also be adding two more batches of entries about environmentalists and storytellers, so watch this space," said Neill Atkinson.

Anyone with an interest in learning about architecture, design, or Aotearoa New Zealand history is encouraged to visit Te Ara:

Updated on 24th November 2022