Shara Paulo made a Fellow of the NZIA

At a practice-level, Shara’s passion for human-centric architecture has seen her become a Wellness Leader at Ignite. She has been instrumental in the development of a wellness methodology and design approach, which considers how design might improve the human experience of a space.

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Dialled into a video call, Shara Paulo bounces on a swiss ball with her new-born son asleep in her lap. Her young daughter is taking a nap next door, and she has squeezed in some time to talk about wellness in design. Even while on parental leave, Shara is generous with both her time and her knowledge.

A few nights earlier, she was standing in front of a roomful of her peers at the NZIA Waikato / Bay of Plenty regional awards, where she was made a Fellow of the Institute. She is the fourth woman in the region to receive this honour.

While the fellow membership was a surprise to Shara, it is not surprising to anyone that has worked with her. A mentor to her peers, an advocate for diversity, and a leader in sustainability and wellness – Shara’s impact is far-reaching in the field of architecture and in the community.

Her approach embodies a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ ideology. She believes that good design creates equity and improves access and wellbeing for all – and that everyone, from architects to councillors, must work together to achieve it.

“I’m passionate about health, wellness, and sustainability in all areas,” she explains. “From supporting young designers as they progress through their careers to creating architectural spaces that are good for us – it’s all about sustainability for humans and how we support the next generation.”

It is this ideology that last year saw her provide architectural services free-of-charge to support Habitat for Humanity with upgrading a family home in Te Puna. She also tried her hand at some paintwork in the final stages of construction.

“Shara has no boundaries,” says Ignite Associate Director and Bay of Plenty Manager Damian Simpson. “She has a propensity to work with integrity and challenge herself.”

Damian, along with Principal Architect Roger Dowling from Beca and Director Jason Benton from Jigsaw Architects, nominated Shara for the accolade.

“Shara has an unbridled enthusiasm for architecture,” Jason says. “This can be seen in her commitment to the profession at the NZIA branch committee, her advocacy in the wider community, her championing of diversity, and her own personal development.”

“Her dedication to giving back to the industry is another attribute that deserves recognition,” adds Roger.

In 2017, she was a key organiser of the Festival of Architecture in Tauranga – the first time the event had been held in the region. Her involvement the following year saw the festival hold 23 diverse events over 12 days, engaging close to 2,000 members of the community. Her favourite event was the Love our Laneways project ‘te ātea’.

“It shifted the focus from architecture to people and places,” she says. “It showed how the activation of an under-utilised alleyway can create a vibrant space for the community.”

At a practice-level, Shara’s passion for human-centric architecture has seen her become a Wellness Leader at Ignite. She has been instrumental in the development of a wellness methodology and design approach, which considers how design might improve the human experience of a space.

She also shows unwavering support for younger architects. Since 2016, Shara has been a guiding influence for Ignite’s highly successful Graduate Development Programme. The programme supports graduates in their drive to becoming registered architects and touches on the themes of management and leadership.

“Helping graduates develop these softer skills enables them to build an all-round skill set that will benefit them throughout their careers,” she says.

Shara’s dedication to supporting younger architects has been driven by the many people who have donated—and continue to donate—their time and knowledge to her throughout her career.

“I’ve been able to do what I do because others have removed barriers, which has enabled me to contribute meaningfully to architecture,” she says. “Together, we’re making a huge difference. It just gets better from here.”

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