Sir Ian Athfield, whose whimsical and eclectic designs both offended and inspired, has died aged 74.

Sir Ian had recently been made a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to architecture.

He had been prominent in his field since the 1960s and is credited with having considerable influence on the face of Wellington - having received acclaim for his work on projects including Civic Square, Adam Art Gallery, Wellington Library and his own sprawling residence on the hills of Khandallah.

Sir Ian had described his home, a white, plastered, Mediterranean style village studded with turrets and circular windows, as one of his most important works.


On being knighted in the New Year's honours list, he described his appointment as "a little embarrassing".

"The practice of architecture can never be attributed to one person. It is a contributory involvement with the people you work with and those you work for," he told the Herald.

Sir Ian's death comes as one of his most significant new buildings nears completion in Auckland.

Sir Ian designed Devonport's new multimillion-dollar library, now almost finished in the middle of the North Shore seaside village.

The NZ Institute of Architects said: "It is with great sadness that we inform members that Sir Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand's finest architects, has passed away in Wellington."

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry said: "Sir Ian 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.

"He was involved in many projects throughout New Zealand since the 1960s, most recently with his creative input to the Christchurch rebuild.

"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."

Many New Zealanders are familiar with Sir Ian's distinctive buildings and those reacting on Twitter to his death described him as "iconoclastic" and "legendary".