Daniel Cowley

Daniel made the switch from Sydney to Auckland so he could combine his passion for heritage conservation with a professional qualification in architecture.

Daniel Cowley
Daniel Cowley

Master of Architecture (Professional) and Heritage Conservation student Daniel Cowley grew up at the foot of the famous rugged Blue Mountains region in New South Wales, Australia, a setting which helped lay the foundations for a fascination in cultural landscapes.

The second sibling of six, Daniel graduated from the University of Newcastle in 2013 with a Bachelor of Architecture. Soon after, he secured a position in a small architectural practice in Paddington, Sydney, a suburb rich in Victorian architecture and the largest conservation area in New South Wales.

It was during this time in practice that Daniel's passion for old buildings and a future in heritage conservation was cemented.

The course has been fantastic and has certainly led me on one exciting journey!

Daniel Cowley

Why did you choose to study a master's degree at the University of Auckland?

"Having travelled to New Zealand in 2015, I was moved by the knowledge many Kiwis held of first-nation Māori culture and Te Reo language. 

"I had always wanted to register as an architect which meant completing the Master of Architecture (Professional). However, I wanted to combine this with an additional course related to the interests I had developed in heritage conservation. Then I heard about the Master of Architecture (Professional) and Heritage Conservation degree at the University of Auckland, a combination I couldn't find anywhere in Australia.

"This combined masters at the University of Auckland also includes a thesis year which is a year-long, self-directed research module.

"I believed this final year of work would allow me to develop myself in architecture and heritage conservation, and potentially create a future pathway for me in the industry. So, I decided on a change of pace, a new perspective, and an international move which would support my ambitions.

"What has now been a ten-year journey for me in the field of architecture has really helped me to reach an understanding of the importance of my role as a professional, and the ability to connect people to place through the built environment.

"And, to create in such a setting, I believe you need first to understand the history of the place."

What has stood out for you so far as a highlight of the programme?

"One highlight of the programme was taking part in a Pacific architecture class trip to Rarotonga in 2018. Here I completed research into a highly significant Cook Islands Christian Church stone, made of coral and plaster.

"The thesis year of this degree offered me the opportunity to explore areas related to my interests in history and architecture, specifically the early contact period between Māori and Pākehā and the architectural typology which stemmed from this. As self-directed research, I was able to explore the Northland region and visit several early buildings and cultural landscapes.

"The main highlight of this degree for me, however, was stepping out of the University studio and finding the Pouērua Store building which became the subject of my thesis, and is now thought to be the fifth oldest building in New Zealand."

The Northland Barn - Pouerua Store/Stable, one of the earliest remaining examples of European architecture in New Zealand
The Northland Barn - Pouerua Store/Stable, one of the earliest remaining examples of European architecture in New Zealand

Tell us about your lecturers and supervisors

"I find the lecturers to be incredibly resourceful and approachable. The heritage conservation subjects are very much relevant to practice, stemming from diagnosis and adaption to conservation of materials and even learning how to structure a Conservation Management Plan.

"As for supervisors, I couldn't be more grateful to have been guided by Bill McKay, whose historical knowledge of Aotearoa New Zealand provided context and understanding throughout my thesis."

Do you feel your master's degree will help you achieve your goals for the future?

"Ideally, I would love the opportunity to work each day with people in places of meaning to them. Whether this is related to a family wishing to build a new home, extending the life of a place through living heritage, or working towards the preservation of a cultural landscape.

"The profession needs people in leading roles who are passionate and able to ensure the heritage values of these places continue for present and future generations.

"I feel this master’s degree has given me the confidence to do so with relevance and understanding."

I believe this master’s degree will enhance my knowledge and critical thinking in areas of heritage conservation.

Daniel Cowley

What advice would you give to somebody considering postgraduate study?

"Seek the opportunity to work in the field before postgraduate study. In doing so, you will not only equip yourself with a handful of skills and knowledge of the profession, but you'll also discover areas of interest to you.

"I know for a fact if I had not stepped into practice after completing a Bachelor of Architecture, I would not have studied this degree, nor found a passion for old buildings and an awareness of more culturally sensitive approaches suitable for such tangible heritage."

Such a wonderful course guided by some of the country's best in the profession. The University of Auckland should be really proud to offer such a degree.

Daniel Cowley

Daniel Cowley surfing
Daniel angling for an A-frame

Daniel cites Richard Leplastrier’s Lovett Bay House  as one of his all-time favourite buildings which he regards as "a true representation of Australian vernacular architecture."

With a thirst for the surf, Daniel is always searching for the next best wave. "It's my medicine. A place where I can switch off and be present with mother nature."

He's also a keen film photographer and is often found knee-deep in second-hand book stores sniffing out Pacific architecture paperbacks.