King & Dawson Architects & Engineers Ltd | Architecture and engineering under one roof makes for versatility

King & Dawson has built a solid reputation over many years, having existed in its present form for around 30 years and in various partnerships since 1906.

Architect, Joseph Dawson established King & Dawson in 1906, and many of the buildings that originated from the firm’s drawing boards are now part of New Zealand’s history. These include Freyberg Pool, St Francis de Sales Church, the Bell Tower at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Hope Gibbons Building.

Engineer, John Wilson and architect, Achilles Botes (pictured right and left respectively above), are co-owners and directors at King & Dawson. John began his career as an engineer in 1971, and Achilles has over 30 years of experience in his field. He’s the go-to guy for problem solving, design and contract documentation and administration.

With structural engineers and architects, plus a team of draftspersons and administrative staff all housed together, the team at King & Dawson offers a comprehensive service; helping with all facets of a project, from concept to full contract documentation and administration. They’re proud of the fact that they deliver on time, to budget and to the highest standard.

John is a member of the Institute of Professional Engineers; the NZ National Society for Earthquake Engineering and a Licensed Building practitioner. Over 40+ years, he’s accumulated a wide range of skills including the design of steel structures – especially low-rise construction and cool stores – analysis and strengthening of leaky homes and elderly structures including bridges and earthquake-risk buildings. He’s been described as “an innovator with an eye for economic simplicity”.

When asked to name one of his favourite projects, John says designing large-scale planter boxes that serve as buffers for runaway trains at Wellington Railway Station is one of them. “It was a project with a difference and had to be strong enough to withstand the force of a train running into it, yet be aesthetically pleasing too.”

Wellington’s steep terrain and potential for earthquakes provides its share of challenges and means there’s no shortage of work. “More and more people are building on sites once considered unbuildable, and requiring complex engineering such as anchored retaining walls.”

John has noticed how risk-aware people are since the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. “Now the first thing an occupant wants to know is a building’s earthquake rating.”

Along with all the challenges, John really enjoys dealing with a diverse range of clients and their needs. “We probably do more variety than most similar companies in Wellington – from residential, to apartments and industrial buildings, as well as engineering for the arts and public events. Someone came in yesterday wanting a ramp built for a BMX bike competition, and if there’s a concert taking place in the city that requires either a big screen, speaker towers or television stands, we check out the supporting aluminium frames to ensure the structural safety.”

Moore Stephens Markhams director, Abbey Warner stepped in to take over King & Dawson’s accounts when former director, Peter Smith retired in 2015, continuing in a relationship that has lasted over 30 years.

“Abbey always keeps us informed and if we have a question she comes back to us straight away,” says John. “As a small company we prefer to deal with other smaller companies, rather than corporate giants. It allows synergy and understanding of how each other works.”

John likes the fact that Moore Stephens Markhams introduced them to Xero software, which has simplified their accounting practices. “Since Xero’s inception, accounting costs are now a lower percentage of our turnover than they were 15 years ago. That’s good news.”