DINZ Partner Interviews - NZ's Most Stolen Lecterns

What goes into creating New Zealand’s (possibly) most stolen lecterns?

 Every year since 2013, our friends at Autex have custom-made the lecterns used at the Best Design Awards and (almost) every year, these things of beauty get stolen by either a single agent, or a highly sophisticated cartel in the black market for stolen rostrums.

We spoke to Jonathan Mountfort and Marcel Herbke about what goes into designing these objects of desire (and crime).

Back in the day Jeremy Robertshaw and Dan Szczepanski signed up to sponsor the Best Design Awards and they had planned all these activations to support the awards night… but they hadn't told anybody and with two weeks to go they unveiled this on us!

Since then, our yearly brief to designers was born from that, it became a legacy sprint to the finish line.

Think of it as the 48Hour Filmmaking competition but with less gaffer tape.

  • The designer – usually whoever is newest in the team – has exactly eight hours to go from concept and ready for detail design
  • It has to be manufactured in less than two weeks
  • The lectern has to be made out of at least 92.5% by volume in Autex materials – mainly to prevent people from simply cladding but to create the actual structure
  • The main material or how it is crafted has to be an Autex innovation brought out after the previous Best Awards ceremony (Best to Best)
  • The lectern is made to match the MC
  • It has to talk to the theme somehow
  • It has to be a little bit humorous

Marcel: It would be very nice to find out what’s happened to all those lecterns over the years! 

Jono: They traditionally get stolen, which has, by now, become part of the legend and legacy. So much so that now it is disappointing if the lectern turns up back here after the Awards night!

Marcel: My guess is they are in someone’s man cave!

Jono: One actually popped up in a photo on LinkedIn at someone’s flooring conference two years after the Best… I looked at it and they were standing behind our lectern!


It was a pretty basic design: origami folded in black. For some time we had been trying to figure out how to do our acoustic panels in black and that year we came up with an innovation in the binding that allowed us to do just that. We had also just got the water cutter going and had managed to do precision cuts, which allowed us to do a really detailed logo on it.

STATUS: It just wasn't there when we went to collect our gear after the night.

John Britten Black Pin recipient Formway's, Kent Parker, PDINZ. The lectern was built for MC Dai Henwood.

The Cloak: We released new colours like Pinnacle, which is the midnight blue colour material that had just gone crazy all over the world. Using the same black binding process. It fits neatly like a cloak lectern. It was for Oliver Driver so it was made tall.

 STATUS: In a man cave as a centerpiece for a drinking game

Best partners AUT's Desna Jury, FDINZ, presents awards & MC Oliver Driver.

That year we had done our Frontier ceiling and we were all about profiles and ribs so we had these fins and angled cuts through them that sort of shot down on angles. We also poked brass struts through them and across and that's in the offset all of them that like perfect spacing. It was kind of like a mixture between a lectern and Kerplunk!

STATUS: Not recovered… then surfaced on LinkedIn in a photo! 

MC Oliver Driver & Alistair McCready (when he was on the DINZ Student Council and now in 2021 PDINZ accredited).

The one that defied gravity. Made of thick fins and leaning as if it was going to tip over. We had just started using fins on walls.

 STATUS: Vaporized.

Ben Corban, FDINZ - receiving the Designers Institute Black Pin. MC Jesse Mulligan looks on.

This was like a helix or like a column and using curved cuts it twisted up and then got truncated at the top.

 STATUS: Stolen, looted, vanished, Houdini-ed

Dan Bernasconi (left), Emirates Team New Zealand, receiving the John Britten Black Pin. 

This was a collaboration in material, where Vidaspace and Autex worked together. Vidaspace came with a bark, a skin of flexible hardwood tiles, and Autex a heart of purple, for the year when it was all about the perfect purple. This year it was a 50-50 material split, circular design with a split up the front exposing the radiant purple heart.

STATUS: Vidaspace managed to keep a hold of it. Currently under 24/7 surveillance.

The Governor General, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy

In late 2018 we had come out with the Cube in Pavilion colour, which was pure white, like snow. So this one here allowed colour to come through it. We had a new designer who was into electronics so he put LEDs inside to change the glow. He couldn’t have a structure to hold up the LEDs in the middle because of the 92.5% rule… so the whole thing was sewn together with a piece of wire.

STATUS: The only one to come back with the gear… What does this say about the design?

Clive Fugill, NZ Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, recipient John Britten Black Pin

The balls! Here we literally pushed out 3D tile mold to its absolute limits, we had never made a sphere before and we were just testing the limits of our material to see how far we can push it.

STATUS: At the DINZ office. Monitoring technology might (or might not) be operating.

Nat Cheshire, Cheshire Architects receiving the 2020 Purple Pin for Spatial

Sean Sterling and Ellen Sorkin are going to have a go this year, we might attempt to evoke a feeling.

The brief is there… we are looking at you!

DINZ Interviews

When the opportunity arises, DINZ interviews leading designers from here and overseas. These interviews seek to dig beneath the surface to address the common and uncommon challenges, problems and opportunities the design community faces.