“I like to get very hands-on with my projects because I believe as an architect we have to engage more,” says Ben Daly. “Currently, it’s just me that does 95 percent of absolutely everything.” By everything he’s referring to not only his design but construction work. Ben came to his profession as someone “interested in understanding how things work.” After earning his architecture degree at Auckland University in his native New Zealand, he worked for firms in London and Sydney designing community buildings, art galleries, and competition entries. Back in New Zealand and wanting “a new challenge that allowed me freedom to make what I wanted to make and learn what I needed to learn,” he established his own one-man practice, Palace Electric.
So far, Ben’s converted three industrial structures into living quarters, all for himself, his wife, Dulia, who is currently finishing up her training in orthopedic surgery, and their toddler, Hattie. Ben and Dulia’s first apartment was in a former car mechanic’s garage. Next, he transformed a rail car into their home. And most recently, he domesticated a sheep shearing shed in rural Canterbury, just south of Christchurch. By selling or renting the last project, he’s been able to pay for the next (he also teaches design at his alma mater). We discovered Ben’s work via New Zealand designers George and Willy, who, in their Customer Profile, describe the family’s latest home as “inconspicuous on the outside, and inside, a labor of love that celebrates craftsmanship.” Come see.
“I find there’s a lot to be gained from these humble buildings and I’m really enjoying teasing whatever it is out of them, almost like they’re a part of my design tools,” Ben tells us. “Waste is also a factor; it’s something architecture often has a lot to answer for. At the moment, I’m enjoying the ‘Don’t move, improve’ and ‘Don’t build, rework’ movements.”