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Story Telling at Te Hauāuru Reserve

Te Hauāuru Reserve is an integrated green space that takes its design takes cues from the site’s location within the network of upper Waitematā inlets and streams and the history of the kauri forests that once covered the area. From the park entrance and promenade extends a network of pedestrian paths –where the main paths meet, water from the clusters of jets laps over the stepped pavement surface, collecting in shallow pools. The form, pattern and text inlay etched into the base of these pools, and also applied to the sides of the seating plinths, is a subtle reference to the history of kauri in the area and to the imperilled future of Aotearoa’s mighty forest tree. The kauri imprint below our feet invites us to be aware of where we tread.

The industrious nature of Mana Whenua is represented through imagery that is revealed throughout the site. The graphics speak about about early occupation of the Waitematā coastal edge and its inland slopes. Early gardening activity is represented by supersized tools etched into the faceted walls. Brass inlays of representative shellfish are embedded within the promenade paving surface. Shellfish collected from the harbour remind us of the abundant food source relied upon by Mana Whenua.

Read the full story here:


Wellington Zoo’s new chimpanzee habitat

The chimpanzee enclosure upgrade – opened this week – is the latest collaboration between Isthmus and the passionate team at Wellington Zoo.  This major project has improved the environment for the chimps, the largest troupe in New Zealand, and given visitors a more immersive viewing experience.

Within the enclosure, the chimp’s habitat has been enriched with new climbing features as well as significant planting to create a more forest-like setting for the troupe. In line with the Zoo’s recognised focus on sustainability (it’s the first certified Carbon Zero zoo in the world), materials were carefully sourced; hardwood timber poles recycled from Wellington’s old trolley bus network; chunky ropes reclaimed from Centre Port’s tug boats; and swings and hammocks made from recycled hoses donated by the Fire Service.

The addition of a dense layer of vegetation within the enclosure benefits the chimps’ wellbeing as they are now immersed in the habitat, not all in plain view of each other and the enclosing boundary wall. They call-out to each other more now, as they would in their natural habitat. Over 2,000 plants have enriched the enclosure, some protected by special hot-wires to give the plants a better chance of survival. Big trees were specified for the same reason. On top of the tallest timber poles several indestructible steel nests have been installed for the chimps to climb up to and gain prospect from. From up high they not only survey their enclosure, but also a large part of Wellington’s cityscape.

The troupe were kept inside their house for seven weeks during construction, during which time a large hole was cut into the lower end of the concrete enclosure and a prefabricated steel frame was installed, followed by 50mm thick glass panels. This glazed wall brings human visitors face-to-face with our closest living relatives.

Adjacent to this, on the site of the old Chimp House, a custom playspace has been installed that mirrors the chimp’s environment of poles, enclosures and nests.

Chimpanzees are five times stronger than an adult human and highly dextrous, capable of unscrewing machine-fixed M20 bolts, so a seriously robust materials palette with special details was specially developed.

The upgrade has enhanced the captive environment of these intelligent apes as well as bringing people closer to them physically and emotionally, further strengthening Wellington Zoo’s commitment to education and conservation.

North Kumutoto public space blessed

The North Kumutoto public space on Wellington’s waterfront was officially opened this week by Mayor Justin Lester following a blessing and karakia by Kura Moeahu from Taranaki Whanui.

The ceremony was celebrated the completion of the $7m public space project and acknowledged the many contractors and consultants who collaborated with Wellington City Council to create it.

The revamp of the 6,000m2 area features a new timber boardwalk, improved access for visitors to the harbour’s edge, planting to attract wildlife, an award-winning timber pavilion, seating areas, covered walkways and restoration of many heritage features including the historic harbour board fences, gates.

The significance of the project, as one of the final pieces of the Wellington Waterfront Framework established nearly 15 years ago, was highlighted by the Mayor, as was the transformation of the North Kumutoto site from a car park to a high-quality public space.

“I urge Wellingtonians to get down on the waterfront to take a look at North Kumutoto – the space is truly outstanding and something we should all be proud of.”


Congratulations to James Pattullo and Brennan Baxley who  have successfully passed the NZILA’s registration process! It’s been a long process and a lot of work. This is a big professional milestone.

10 Isthmus people promoted

Our whole team has grown in experience and confidence this year; ten individuals have been specifically recognised for promotions as they have crossed a threshold to take on their roles at a new level.

Graduate to Intermediate

Ivy has been a key team member on Roksill South neighbourhood masterplan, Eastern Porirua masterplan, and Buckley B precinct at Hobsonville Point. A landscape architect passionate about community, she’s well organised and conscientious under pressure. She’s been working out-of-hours on some interesting design competitions.

Hew is an up-and-coming architect who has contributed to too many projects to list. Her graphic and presentation skills are second to none. She has a hunger to learn and to succeed; this has led to her working with greater independence and self-direction. Hew has also entered a number of design competitions this year with her friend Ivy.

Sophie joined us from the UK in time for the Schools PPP3 – she was part of the competitive design tender and since then has been heavily involved in the developed design and documentation. Sophie has impressed us with her design thinking and thirst for knowledge.

Charlotte’s final year thesis explored ageing in place in rural communities. Her research has led her to a keen interest in designing for both ends of the community spectrum- from kids to oldies. Since she started at Isthmus where she has grabbed the opportunity to get into the middle of Northcote projects – the town centre masterplan and the Awataha greenway in particular – helping maintain integration and information flow between projects.

Intermediate to Senior

Wade took a decade out from landscape architecture to set up and run Sandwiches club, a Wellington institution. In his 4 years at Isthmus Wade has worked on numerous projects including Kenepuru, Civic and Riddiford Gardens, Porirua CBD and Cobham Drive Cycleway. He is now leading the next stages several projects; his eye for detail at site observation stage has led much of our recent work through to successful completion.

James started at Isthmus when still a student, quickly proving himself to be very helpful around the studio. Five years later he has worked on just about every project that has been through the studio, providing bullet-proof graphic support. This year he’s stepped up to take on bigger project roles, and he continues to cast his visualisation magic on many other projects. ‘Not a problem’ is James’ catchphrase.

Senior to Associate

Kamelia is qualified in both architecture and urban design. In her two years at Isthmus she has brought a sense of purpose, ambition and fun to the masterplanning work she has been involved with. She is passionate about trying to solve Auckland’s housing problems, and much of her work has been on the Auckland Housing Programme, including the spatial delivery strategies for Mangere and Mt Roskill Precincts and the Owairaka Neighbourhood masterplan. Kamelia is involved in women in leadership initiatives of the property council and the NZIA and is a committee member of the UDF. Kamelia has embedded herself in isthmus’ culture and become a critical part of the team not only on project work but also leadership and mentoring.

Greg has been instrumental in setting up and managing our BIM server and coordinating project collaborations with other practices. In his two-and-a-half years at Isthmus he been working on varied projects, most recently the Ferry Basin. In addition to his project work, Greg has contributed to mentoring and knowledge sharing – especially on technical issues – and has demonstrated his ability to help actively manage the studio. As a new father, Greg is functioning surprisingly well for someone so seriously sleep deprived.

Associate to Principal

Earl came to Isthmus back in 2015 and quickly and quietly delivered Isthmus’ biggest building to date, the 1,000m2 McKee Mangahewa Control Centre for Todd Energy. It’s a simple looking building that belies great complexity. Earl is a go-to industry expert on pre-fabrication and modular construction, having built a solid reputation for innovative and delivery with both clients and constructors. Earl is successfully collaborating with leading designers in NZ to advance exciting new projects. His calm demeanour, enquiring mind, attention to detail and encyclopaedic knowledge of the world around us have earned him a position among Isthmus’ design leaders.

Haylea is one of those people that seem to have always known where they are going.  She joined us full time 11 years ago, working as an intern while studying at Unitec. Since then Haylea has progressed in a straight, steady line all the way to Principal. The one constant throughout that whole time has been Hobsonville Point. Haylea has pushed the boundaries of the landscape architect to the limit, and beyond. As a residential masterplanner she has a deep understanding of place, community and development strategy. Today Hobsonville Point is a thriving, proud community and as HLC has expanded beyond Hobsonville, so has Haylea. She’s currently working on suburban regeneration projects such as Mt Roskill and Mangere, among much more. Haylea was appointed to the Isthmus Board a year ago in recognition of her strategic thinking and innovative approach to top table projects.

Te Ara Manawa opens

This weekend Hobsonville Onekiritea is hosting a Gala Opening for Te Ara Manawa, the 5km Coastal Walkway that follows the harbour edge around Hobsonville Point. Many years in the making, the final boardwalk connections on the upper Waitematā are complete and it is now possible to circumnavigate the whole of the route; past the ferry landing, restaurants and farmers market at Catalina Bay, through treetops, and among native bush.

In total, three-quarters of Hobsonville Point is encircled by the walkway. In te reo Māori, Te Ara Manawa means the ‘pathway among the mangroves’; however, it is also a play on words. Bernard Makaore, Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara, who worked with Isthmus and New York-based landscape practice Nelson Byrd Woltz on the walkway concept, says that Manawa also means ‘heart’ – although figuratively, not physically.