A pivotal and influential practice in New Zealand’s modern architectural history. TCP&D was the place to be if you weren’t working in Tib Donner’s City Architects office….

Although considered to be about ‘the bottom line’ of getting it done on time, and on budget, the practice would design a huge range of buildings over it’s 23 year existence. Many were large commercial or service  operations like the National Women’s Hospital and the Manukau Purification Works, while others were of a more domestic nature, including the partners own houses…

Early days:

The genesis of the practice was conceived through the then Auckland Hospital Board’s decision to build a much needed National Women’s Obstetrics and Gynecological hospital at Green Lane. For a number of years there had been debate and infighting about the need and feasibility of funding but this, with the promise of  Government assistance was finally implemented and applications were sought from the architectural fraternity.

Four were chosen from a list of fourteen, and in the 18th December, 1950 issue of the New Zealand Herald these were detailed as “Messrs R A Thorpe, C G Cutter, R A Pickmere and Mr K W Douglas of Wellington”. In a later article (of 17th Jan, 1951) the four architects had agreed to form a practice which would then become the designers of the new hospital. The amalgamation was a requirement of the funding. Upon formation of the practice to be known as ‘Thorpe Cutter Pickmere & Douglas’, the chairman of the board (Mr J Grierson) awarded the architects 15,000 pounds ($30,000) from the Government as costs towards sketch plans. Thus the foundations of one of the countries major architectural firms of the late modern period was laid  (KRTA were soon to follow…)

Each of the four men had served during the recent Second World War, and were close in age, all being born between 1910 and 1912. All had been officers, Cutter and Douglas  serving with the RNZAF and Thorpe in the RNZN while Ralph Pickmere had been in the New Zealand Engineers in the Middle East.

All the partners also attended Auckland University College School of Architecture in the years between 1930 and the wars outbreak.

Raymond Thorpe had (like Ralph Pickmere) worked for Roy Lippencott’s practice before Lippencott left the country, and also worked in Suva for George Johnson in 1937 before he joined Alva Bartley’s practice which was designing the 1ZB building in Auckland, working alongside Imi Porsolt, Jack G Paterson and Fred Beckett, amongst others.

‘Mick’ (George Clayton) Cutter was born in Taranaki, and had begun work in the practice of Charles Towle in 1930 and entered the Auckland School of Architecture in 1938 to gain his degree – but by 1940 was a  RNZAF Squadron Flight Lieutenant, later to become a staff officer involved with training at the Defense Building in Grey Street, Wellington – were he would meet his future wife Betsy before returning to University in Auckland post-war; becoming a tutor after finishing his degree in 1946.

to be continued….

Thorpe Cutter Pickmere & Douglas is currently under research and will be online over the next few months.

If you have any information about the practice, please get in touch through the contacts page.