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Inclusion and Diversity

Last week Isthmus’ Wellington studio hosted a talk entitled Driving Inclusion and Diversity with three speakers championing advocacy in this area. We had a very positive response and a great turnout from the NZIA and NZILA for the event. The event was organised by Isthmus Architectural Graduate Suchita Jain; here is her report:

Vanisa Dhiru, the President of the National Council of Women New Zealand, discussed the various ventures that organisations are undertaking to support Gender Equal NZ. Highlight: 74% of NZers don’t know or don’t think people should work full time if they want to progress their career. What does this say about our workplaces? How can we make our workplaces more inclusive towards people in need of flexibility- young parents etc.

Christina van Bohemen, president of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, spoke about the launch of the Diversity Agenda. She urged the audience to get their workplaces involved in the change-making process and how Isthmus is one of the founding partners for the Agenda. Highlight: Founding Partners of the Diversity Agenda will be reporting on how/ what they are doing to work towards the collective goal of 20% more women in engineering and architecture by 2021.

Haylea Muir, our young and spirited Board Director (amongst her many other roles) spoke about her journey at Isthmus and what motivated her to push for a Women in Leadership Group. Highlight: Haylea quoted Isthmus’ CEO Ralph Johns from earlier this year about Isthmus’ business culture – “We want to evolve our business to be led by a representative and diverse group of talented people. We think that’s good for business, as well as being firmly in line with our values”.

Vinegar Lane wins NZPI Project Award

Progressive Enterprise’s Vinegar Lane development recently won the prestigious Rodney Davies Project Award at the annual NZPI National Planning awards. Isthmus Founders David Irwin and Gavin Lister joined the client and the consultant team of Russell McVeagh and Zomac Planning at the awards ceremony.

NZPI bestow just one Project Award each year, recognising excellence in:

– the processes which lead to the identification of the need for or justification of the project,

– the planning processes undertaken in formulating the project including research, consultation,

– the evaluation of alternatives and decision making, and

– any physical, economic, cultural or social change which has been result of the project.

Vinegar Lane’s consent mechanism was innovative. Each of the freehold lots in this ‘urban subdivision’ was sold with pre-arranged resource consent to construct a building that had not yet been designed. Architects of individual buildings work to the Vinegar Lane Design Manual which stipulates the building envelope, development controls and a design review process.

This award further recognises the importance of Vinegar Lane as an authentic model for low-rise intensification in Auckland. On average, it is estimated Vinegar Lane will yield 280 dwellings per hectare (net).

Love Cycling Regional Awards

Last week a group of us from the Wellington studio attended the Love Cycling Regional Awards; we rode our bikes en masse through the twilight city and along the windy waterfront for a progressive awards ceremony, finishing up at the cosy Bicycle Junction.

Isthmus were a finalist in the Best Employer (SME) category. The winners Garage Project (who also supplied the beery refreshments) were congratulated for their proactive bike culture.

Julie Anne Genter (Minister for Women, Assoc. Minister of Health, Assoc. Minister of Transport) was there to lend her support to the cycling community. With a Green MP in a transport role, we hope to see significantly more spending on urban cycling infrastructure over the next three years.

Te Hauāuru Park Opens

Adjacent to the award-winning Kopupaka Park the ‘town park’ at the centre of Westgate, known as Te Hauāuru, is officially open. Designed for Auckland Council, the 1.1ha park provides a green heart for the emerging town centre.

The park includes a large lawn for events, a playful water feature and a small building – also designed by Isthmus – that houses a plant room and public toilets.

The walls that structure the park and frame the lawns reference the upper harbour of inlets and bays, spilling out onto a lower level promenade space along the street edge, with shellfish motif inlays, a sheltered and flexible space designed to accommodate markets.  A multi-layered planting scheme throughout the park combines native and exotic species for year-round interest.

A kauri bark relief pattern is etched in a sequence of ground planes within the water feature. The idea evolved through series of meetings with iwi where stories of shared histories around milling and gum digging surfaced – then concerns about Kauri and dieback.

The amenity building is designed to complement a future café. Its materials are a combination of precast concrete panels and timber framing – a perforated anodised aluminium rainscreen unifies the form. The perforations represent Māori kites, known as manu tukutuku or manu aute. Manu means both kite and bird, and the word tukutuku refers to the winding out of the line as the kite ascends.

Now we wait for the rich palette of planting to bed-in, and for a community to arrive and make this their place.


client: Gemma Sandford, Auckland Council

core design team (as pictured L to R): Hayley Wright, Nada Stanish, Sarah Bishop, Grant Bailey, Rebecca Jerram. plus: Andrew Mirams, Marita Hunt, Azmon Chetty, Greta Christensen and Alex Foxon.

lead contractor: Hawkins Construction

The Umbrella Experiment – Winner

Isthmus graduates Jia Ying-Hew, Ivy Llanera and Mihali Katsougiannis collaborated on a design for The Idealog + Blunt + Generator Umbrella Experiment. From hundreds of entries their design was recently announced as the people’s choice winner.

About the design, The Land We Are, Jia says,

“New Zealand’s landscapes are both just as marvellous and diverse as it’s people. Using the landscape as a medium, this design represents the culmination of NZ’s different people and cultures.

The land is something that binds us to Aotearoa. It has enabled us to accomplish wonders far beyond what others could envisage as we constantly draw upon it for inspiration resulting in truly bespoke design that could only have been conceived here.

We are fortunate to live in a country where we can gaze upon the stars, traverse across Middle-earth and enjoy the life’s simple pleasures in our own backyard.”

Connecting with plants at the Akoranga Learning Pavilion

Changes in the way we live mean that today’s children have fewer opportunities to connect with nature, at the very time that we need to rekindle our relationship with the natural world (the future of our planet is at stake…).

Wellington’s new Discovery Garden, nestled within the Botanical Gardens, has been created to tell the story of the vital role that plants play in our lives, and our future. The experience focuses on the many ways that plants sustain human life – by providing food, fibre, construction materials and medicine. The resulting 1,500m2 Discovery Garden is a living classroom, shaped to a vision of bringing people and plants together.

Designed as part of the whole, by the same team that designed the landscape, the Akoranga Learning Pavilion offers a gathering space for clubs, school workshops and events. It allows making and doing, even when there is ‘proper weather’ outside. With its roofline echoing the natural slope of the site, architecture and landscape architecture are blended and aligned.

The form of the building is derived from the angular building platform nestled into the hillside beneath a grove of mature pōhutukawa trees. Anchored by masonry retaining walls, a simple monopitch roof rises towards the tree canopy, closely following the slope of the land.

The building works as both a departure point for a learning adventure – the series of ramps, steps and terraces encourage discovery and exploration – and a gathering place to share discoveries. Appropriate to the setting, the material choices are typically wood, with timber used for the structural frame, cladding and interior finishes. The bathroom and storage pods are clad in rough-sawn battens that reference the texture of the bark of the pōhutukawa tree.

The pavilion houses inspiring and creative hands-on education sessions that inspire a life-long connection between people and plants.