01 August 2017

Kenwyn Douglas Tatham Shores (1927–2016)


Kenwyn Douglas Tatham Shores was born in Christchurch on 13 February 1927, grew up in Auckland and was educated at Auckland Grammar and subsequently at the Auckland School of Engineering at Ardmore. Ken’s career spanned a period of significant growth in New Zealand and as a highly skilled civil and structural engineer, he made an outstanding contribution to modern New Zealand.

Engineering career

Ken graduated from there with a BE (Hons) and joined Babbage in early 1951 as the first graduate engineer to be employed by Alistair Babbage. Ken was involved at that level in the design of the first pre-stressed concrete reservoir built in New Zealand at Henderson and in the design of the Nelson Street bridge.

Having cut his teeth in pre-stressed concrete and concrete design, Ken left Babbage in 1954 and headed to London where he joined Ove Arup. He recalled that at that time engineers in Ove Arup were generally unfamiliar with pre-stressed concrete.  He was quickly working on the design and getting involved in the supervision of reinforced concrete buildings for Arup. Returning to New Zealand in 1956 he joined Alistair Babbage and Peter Andrell to form Babbage Shores and Andrell. The firm expanded its workload of local authority and industrial clients under the guidance of its three principals and flourished as New Zealand industry developed.

By the end of the 1950s the iconic Caltex Building on Fanshawe Street, the first pre-stressed building in New Zealand had been designed and its construction overseen by Ken. The building was subsequently refurbished and occupied by Microsoft in the 1990s. In addition Ken was responsible for the design and oversight of the construction of various expansions at Kinleith in the same period. To enable the development of part of Auckland for housing, Ken designed a standalone sewerage treatment plant that operated for many years before that part of Auckland was served by a municipal system.

For more than 50 years Ken led Babbage and oversaw its transition from civil and structural engineering to an industry-leading multidisciplinary practice. During his tenure projects for Ajax GKN, NZ Wire, Price Motherwell, James Hardie Industries, New Zealand Forest Products, New Zealand Steel, Pacific Steel, a range of bridges around Auckland, the Liquigas pipeline from Lyttelton to Woolston, the Winstone Samsung Mill at Karioi, the expansion of the Maramarua Coalfield and the Commonwealth Games swimming venue at Henderson were completed. Other projects included a wide range of landmark buildings in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Palmerston North and elsewhere in New Zealand: The Henderson Pool complex and associated Commonwealth Games bowls venue put Babbage projects on the world stage and established a reputation for excellence.

Serving the profession

In addition to his major contribution to building Babbage as a business and continuing to develop his own engineering expertise, Ken was actively involved in mentoring young engineers both within Babbage and through involvement in national engineering affairs. He served as an executive of the Association of Consulting Engineers, New Zealand (1963-72), including two as Association Chairman, and 6 years as a member of Council of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (1972-77). From 1988 to 1992 he served on the Board of Management of CEAS.

Ken was a member of the Engineers Registration Board from 1979 to 1994 and was Board Chairman 1986 to 1994.  He served for eight years as an IPENZ nominee on the Board of the Building Research Association of New Zealand, including seven years on the Executive Committee, one year as deputy Chairman and two years as Chairman of the Board and the Executive.  For nine years from 1978 to 1987, he was the IPENZ representative on the Classification Committee of the NZ Ready Mix Concrete Association. He also served as a member of the Building Permits Committee of the Standards Association charged with the revision of NZS 1900 Chapter 2.

Following retirement in 1994 Ken maintained strong links with Babbage and the engineering industry becoming a panel member of the ACENZ Committee assessing projects submitted for the Annual ACENZ Awards. In addition he became involved in the New Zealand branch of RedR while his health still permitted.

Ken was fascinated with all aspects of engineering and applied himself with skill and enthusiasm to a range of personal projects as well as to building the profession. A mentor to many engineers and other building professionals over the years, his skill, knowledge and professionalism were well respected by his peers. It was Ken’s reputation, understanding of engineering principles, enquiring mind, attention to detail and personable nature that led to his engagements in dispute resolution and to investigate accidents and engineering failures. He was and thoroughly deserved to be a highly respected and honoured Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers: One who truly deserved the honorific ‘Fellow.’

Ken Shores passed away on Sunday 17 July 2016 in his 89th year having survived many of his engineering colleagues at Babbage.

More information


Andrea Stayton, obituary for Ken Shores, Babbage Consultants, July 2016.

Further reading

In 2014 IPENZ commissioned and completed an oral history project about Ken Shores.