'Heavy hearts' as renowned architect Sir Ian Athfield mourned

The family of renowned architect Sir Ian Athfield say his sudden passing this morning was unexpected and has had a great impact on those who knew and loved him.

Ian Athfield in 2011 Source: 1 NEWS

Sir Ian, who was knighted in the recent New Year's Honours List, died in hospital after a long illness at the age of 74.

"It is with heavy hearts that the Athfield family announces the passing this morning of Ath, a treasured and respected husband, father and grandfather," the family says in a statement.

"He loved to bring people together and would have enjoyed people gathering and sharing memories at this time, the statement says.

"Although he had not been in good health recently, his sudden passing was unexpected and has had a great impact on those who knew and loved him."

The President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, Pip Cheshire, says Sir Ian "continually thought about, critiqued and provoked society on the way they lived, either in individual houses, towns or cities."

Sir Ian, who was Wellington-based, was appointed the Architectural Ambassador for the Christchurch City Council after the 2010 earthquake and provided design advice for the reconstruction of the city.

He began practicing in the 1960s and became famous for his distinctive residential designs during the 1980s.

His major projects in the capital included Civic Square, Victoria University's Adam Art Gallery, the Wellington Library, Chews Lane Precinct and the Wellington Overseas Passenger Terminal redevelopment.

Sir Ian won more than 60 national and international architecture and design awards.

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says Sir Ian Athfield has played a major part in shaping modern New Zealand architecture and has made an enormous contribution to the city of Wellington he loved so much.

"I offer my condolences to his family, and it is a small comfort that he knew of his knighthood. He was one of New Zealand's great characters and he will be missed."

The family says funeral details will be advised as soon as possible but it can be confirmed that a service to celebrate Ath's life will be held in Wellington next week.