A Pete Bossley house won one of the big awards in architecture this week, so of course we wanted to see his place.

The winning house, which was judged to be bloody good in a mouthful of a thing called the New Zealand Institute of Architects Resene Supreme Awards for Architecture, is not actually called a house. It is a "retreat" and is built of glass and concrete and has "a twisted-plane roof and three part-buried, grass-roofed pavilions".

A Pete Bossley house, or building, or even retreat, is a structure which, says the architect, should not be able to be recognised by anything as predictable as a signature look. "Hopefully not," he says. He likes the element of surprise. He likes to describe himself as eccentric but I think he means architecturally eccentric, although he does have a liking for very brightly coloured shirts when everyone knows architects are supposed to wear black.

One thing about Bossley is so predictable you could have written the response before the question was asked. That's the one about whether we can come and see his house. Certainly, he says, but "it's not finished".

Of course it's not finished - it's an architect's house.

"Confucius say: Finish house, man die," Bossley says, which is a fairly ingenious explanation for the still wobbly polished concrete steps. You can also tell this is an architect's house because it has three dead bushes hanging from wire in the front garden and a bright orange bit on the front which will become a tower. He plans to put a tall, thin library on the top with ladders to go up and down to retrieve your book. Then he just might put a tiny deck on the top of that. So perhaps the neighbours think he's eccentric. Some people would think that orange was pretty awful. "Oh, a lot do. The neighbours were slightly perturbed when it went on. They thought it was an undercoat."

His is a very nice house, with lots of light and open spaces and no clutter and no, it's not finished. It never will be. "It's cobbler's shoes, isn't it?" he says. I think it might be a bit more than that and he says, "Oh, it could well be more than that. For me, anyway, it's the sense of potential, the options in front of you are always pretty interesting. So to keep some options there so you don't actually remove those options is quite a nice thing to have." He maintains he thinks it might be "a great relief" to finish one of his own houses (he never has) but this is rubbish. Because "you could always go back and make it higher or wider or cut a hole in the floor".

He says he occasionally gets invited to dinner at the homes of clients whose houses - to everyone's great relief, no doubt - he has finished. I wouldn't let him in the door.

I wondered about the process of being so involved in the design of a house, then the handing over - and that strange thing about it forever after being referred to as a "Pete Bossley house". So, if I had one of his houses (I'll be in touch when I win Lotto and I'd like one with a tower too, thanks) what's the line between its being a Pete Bossley house and its being my house? "Oh, they're all mine. Well, depends whether it's any good. It's a funny thing. It's such a part of your life for a long period. You design it, you wrestle with the authorities, with the whole construction side of it. Then suddenly somebody else moves in." Goodness, the nerve of them. "Yeah, how dare they? But by then, of course, we're thoroughly embroiled in the next project. It's sort of like when you read a huge book and you finish it, it's like a hole in your life. But for us the hole is filled by the fact that we're halfway through a whole lot of other books as well. But there is quite a sense of loss when you hand the house over, then again there's the whole joy of seeing somebody else enjoy it."

He says that the end of the process is like getting to the end of what he calls "the journey", which I thought was sports coach-speak but perhaps it's just how all eccentrics talk. Anyway, by the time everyone's got to where they're going, they're all, of course, blissfully happy. And if you've approached Bossley you want a Bossley house so you should know what you're in for. He says, as a joke, that his mission statement is "yellow. Just because I hate mission statements. So if I have one it is 'yellow'. It's just an internal one [mission statement] really but yellow is such a beautiful colour and it's so warm and sunny and uplifting but some people hate it. So of course I always start with yellow. When people say, 'What colour is it [going to be]?' I always say, 'Yellow,' and see how far we go. People are frightened of yellow. It also stands for peril and it's the international colour for danger in industry and there's sort of gangrene ... "

We had quite a serious conversation about yellow. Truly. It made perfect sense at the time, as it does when you're sitting in a room with a pink wall talking to a man in an orange shirt who is not eccentric at all. Don't, by the way, bother to go to see him if you fancy a taupe house. "I hate taupe. Taupe is the fashionable colour of the day and it's safe and conservative and dull and brown and gloomy. All the villas around Auckland that used to be painted a beautiful, clear, crisp white and have now been painted taupe, they look like giant cow patties."

It is a good thing for a city to have opinionated architects and he is a star architect, although he says, of course, "that's for other people to decide. I know where I'd like to be". This is on the scale between a perfectly adequate architect and a great one. The difference is "inspiration, probably and taking risks, pushing yourself and your clients a little bit".

He gets a lot of publicity, which he says goes with the sorts of projects his firm takes on: Te Papa and the Blake Memorial, for example, which are always going to court controversy. "No publicity is necessarily bad." I thought he might be regretting having put his hand up for the Blake project because it's been going on for three years now, has had to be redesigned and nobody seems to be all that keen. "Oh, that's not true," he says, and it's going terribly well and "it's going to be a ripper". As to when we might see this ripper, he reckons "we'll get around to building it some time towards the end of next year. That's what buildings are like; they take years but this one has had a fairly slow start, but it's not unusually slow and it's just had big bursts of publicity".

ON the other hand he has designed houses he'd like to show off but the clients don't allow it. He says he can and does do houses in the $400,000 to $6-7 million range.

I wonder whether he ever gets envious of other people having so much money to spend on their houses and he says, "Sometimes driving home from working on these projects I find myself thinking, 'Yeah, then we'll do that, then we'll build that on,' then a bit further down the road I'm thinking, 'Oh. No, that's right. I can't do that,' and there's a reason."

Which is money, obviously. "There's that old adage," he says, "that money doesn't buy happiness, but it obviously removes a few of the issues that go with unhappiness. It certainly buys better architecture."

But he has lost clients by suggesting that they didn't need a new house - they needed marriage counselling. A good architect, he says, has to be part psychologist, good at listening, and, presumably, able to persuade people that things like orange towers will make their lives happier.

I think he could throw quite a good tantrum; he says he can put up with difficult personalities "in order to create good architecture. Because, yeah, I'm difficult in the process sometimes. The process is difficult. There are times when you have to say, 'This is the way this has got to go, it's better for the project. It's more challenging, it may be more expensive' ... but if you don't take that kind of difficult line sometimes ... you end up with taupe."