Whangarei architect Grant Harris overcame challenges of extreme weather and difficult terrain on Mt Ruapehu to create a cafe building which has won high praise as one of 20 equal top places in the 2012 New Zealand Institute of Architects awards.
Entries are scrutinised by a panel of five leading architects and Hugh Tennent, convenor of the New Zealand Institute of Architects awards jury, said the jury agreed the Knoll Ridge Cafe was a wonderful building, "truly audacious in its design and also in its construction, carried out under very difficult circumstances".
Other winners ranged from the multi-million-dollar Auckland Art Gallery to a Napier artist's studio, a chapel in an inner-city church, an airport hotel and a lakeside school.
The original Knoll Ridge Cafe was destroyed in an arson attack in February 2009, with an adjacent building housing snow-grooming machines.
Owners Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd immediately commissioned Grant Harris to design replacement buildings with temporary facilities for the 2009 ski season.
The architect said work had to be begun straight away so that the precast floor panels could be hauled up to the site while there was snow on the ground.
"The real problem in building there is winter - we saw guys working in some atrocious conditions and in the end we had to pull the plug and say, that's it, we will come back in the spring."
The building was completed in 2010 and its first operational ski season was last year.