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Isthmus Matariki

There is a natural logic that the transition from one year to the next is marked by the maximum tilt of the earth, our furthest distance from the sun. In Europe the pagan mid-winter festival was combined with Christianity; the British Empire’s calendar was eventually overlaid on the opposite side of the globe, obscuring Aotearoa’s seasonal rhythms.

However, the old ways are resurfacing. Matariki is increasing in prominence as an authentic, homegrown celebration of the passing of the year. Isthmus first introduced Matariki in 2008 as one of a series of staff-initiated culture nights, which grew in subsequent years to become a dinner for the whole studio and their whanau.

Five years ago we lost a couple of public holidays to the weekend (before ‘mondayisation’) so Isthmus introduced Matariki Day for all staff, an extra day off and dinner with whanau in the evening.

This year, for the first time, we have extended our Matariki season to include our clients, collaborators and friends. Thanks to those that joined us in Auckland and Wellington for an evening of waiata, food, drinks and conversation.

Matariki provides a punctuation mark in the middle of the long dark winter; a time to both reflect and look forward, but most of all a time be present with one another, enjoy each other’s company and deepen relationships.

Todd Energy McKee Control Centre opens

Todd Energy has built a $12m state-of-the-art Operations Centre at the McKee Mangahewa natural gas production station in North Taranaki, one of the largest onshore natural gas production stations in New Zealand. The Isthmus-designed Tikorangi Building was opened by Megan Woods, Minister of Energy and Resources, this week.

The cross-laminated timber (CLT) building brings together fifty production station staff that were previously spread across three separate buildings within the site. The new 1000m2 facility has been designed to Importance Level 4 (IL4), the same level as a hospital. It is designed to withstand high wind events and a significant earthquake and return to operation immediately after.

The light weight of the CLT structure was a large factor in achieving IL4 design standard for critical infrastructure within a modest budget. The use of CLT also significantly reduced construction time compared to traditional steel and masonry construction methods. It also offers a warm environment in which to work.  

The project took 14 months to complete and was delivered on time and within budget by Taranaki contractor Clelands Construction. The building is Isthmus’ largest completed work of architecture in the region to date.

Freyberg wins Civic and Arts Property Award

While Isthmus were busy enjoying our annual Matariki night dinner in the studio, across town at the Spark Arena the Property Council Awards were happening. We were excited to hear that, from a long list of finalists from around the country, the Freyberg Place & Ellen Melville Hall project won the Warren & Mahoney Civic and Arts Property Award!

We’d like to congratulate our client Lisa Spasic from Auckland Council who received the award on behalf of the project, and extend our congratulations to the whole team; design partners John Reynolds and Stevens Lawson Architects; consultants Graham Tipene, Beca, Holmes Consulting, Traffic Design Group, eCubed, Arborlab, Plan.Heritage, H20 and MPM Projects; and the contractors JFC Ltd and Corbel Construction.

Freyberg Place & the Ellen Melville Centre offer an open invitation for Aucklanders to inhabit, occupy and claim the space for themselves. Freyberg’s due-north orientation allows for much-needed, sunny and sheltered space in the city; it delivers on aspirations for a vibrant, accessible and liveable city for the people of Auckland.

Isthmus Matariki Day

Seven years ago we embedded an additional ‘public holiday’ into the Isthmus culture and calendar – we call it Matariki Day. We think that in the future all New Zealanders will celebrate an authentic, home-grown winter holiday of seasonal and cultural significance; a public holiday for Matariki rather than Queens Birthday.

We give all of our staff an extra day off, and in the evening hold a dinner in the studio for all whanau. This is our way of recognising and thanking all staff in front of their partners and families.

We look forward to the year ahead and enjoy a uniquely New Zealand meal together. Afterwards, while the adults talk, the kids are kept busy with the ‘matariki tamariki design challenge’.

Both of our studios will be closed this Friday 15 June.

Three Projects Finalists in the Timber Awards

Three Isthmus projects have been announced as Finalists in the NZ Wood Resene Timber Awards.

The Habitat Markers, a series of interventions along the Hobsonville Coastal Walkway, include solid laminated tōtara blocks that have been CNC routed to create a labyrinth of holes and hollows for birds and insects to make their homes within, and for children to encounter nature.

Integrated into the folded (FSC-certified) purple heart deck of Kumutoto Site 8 a small pavilion offers a human-scaled sculptural landmark along the Wellington waterfront. In both form and texture it is the built interpretation of a large pōhutukawa tree. A matrix of cedar battens, almost 18km worth, hang lightly overhead offering shade and partial shelter for communal eating at the long bench within the shelter.

Touching the land/whenua lightly, the Hobsonville Point Coastal Walkway Bridges curve and give way to the existing trees and the topography. The design offers an enhanced elevated experience, one which conveys the forest canopy. The central deck uses recycled Australian hardwood while on the outer edges a lighter profile of native Totara has been used to weave the handrail detail together drawing on cultural tradition.

The winners will be announced at a dinner in Auckland on 20th September 2018.


Three Mid-Year Promotions

In our studios there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved in the work you want to do. Over the years we’ve observed some characteristics of people that thrive in our studio culture; these individuals are positive, proactive and collaborative. They are self-starters. And most of all, they are independent, self-confident and make their own opportunities.

The following three people have all progressed their careers this year, and are contributing at an even greater level. They are getting out of their comfort zones and going the extra mile.


Intermediate to Senior

HAYLEY WRIGHT graduated with a Masters of Architecture from VUW back in 2011, after which she worked for a while in London, before returned to Aotearoa and settling in Auckland.  Since joining Isthmus two and a half years ago she has worked on a number of key projects, including various Hobsonville houses, Te Hauauru (Westgate Town Park), Dominion & Valley Road Apartments and Northcote’s Everyday Homes. She’s been a member of the Auckland Branch of NZIA since 2017.

Hayley takes a proactive responsibility for all aspects of the projects she is running. She brings a calm, thoughtful and engaging presence to her work and the studio as a whole.


Graduate to Intermediate

BRENNAN BAXLEY holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. After working and teaching for three years in the US Brennan made the move to Wellington in mid-2016 to join Isthmus. Since than he has balanced his studio role with teaching in the landscape programme at VUW. Key projects at Isthmus include the Gisborne Land-use Study, Kenepuru Stage1 and the Upper Hutt Landscape Study.

Brennan shows initiative, is highly organised and committed. He contributes to practice, academia and the profession and has quickly established himself in a ‘go-to’ role in the studio with his ever helpful and positive, can-do attitude.


ASHLEY WEST graduated with a Masters of Architecture Professional from Unitec. She joined Isthmus’ Auckland studio at the start of 2017 after spending a year as an Architectural Designer in her home town of Christchurch. She’s worked on a huge list of projects over the last year or so, predominantly in the area of housing and residential masterplanning.

From the first moment she set foot in the studio, Ashley has displayed energy, enthusiasm and a keen desire to learn. She has proven to be a fast learner, always performing to the best of her ability, and seeks to get involved beyond the immediate task at hand.