Welcome Damian Powley

Hutia te rito o te harakeke,
kei whea te kōmako e kō?
Kī mai ki ahau;
He aha te mea nui o te Ao?
Māku e kī atu,
he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

We are proud to announce that this week we welcomed Damian Powley to Isthmus. He joins us from Auckland Council after 13 years working with the vibrant and diverse communities of South Auckland. Damian has delivered several projects with Isthmus over the years, including Randwick which was awarded ‘Community of the Year’ for 2017. Leading and facilitating Randwick Park, Damian has first hand experience in delivering projects of sustainable change, and the impact that engaged placemaking can have for the communities that live there.
The purpose of the mihi whakatau this week was to acknowledge the waka or transfer of a rangitira from Auckland Council to Isthmus. Not only did we enjoy hosting our manuhiri and bringing Damian on board, but we welcomed the opportunity to deepen our values of ‘land, people, culture’ and practice tikanga maori.
Damian is all about people, he understands the importance of face to face collaboration, and he brings a wealth of experience in meaningful community engagement and advocacy. He will bring fun, passion, music and creativity to our community service (and he’s a super nice guy).

Three Appointed to the Auckland Urban Design Panel

Isthmus designers Haylea MuirDuncan Ecob and Matt Jones have all been appointed to the Auckland Urban Design Panel (Haylea and Matt were nominated through the NZILA, and Duncan through the UDG).

The role of the panel is to provide independent urban design advice to promote good design and a quality environment. The panel is an independent advisory body and does not have statutory decision-making powers.

For Isthmus this is another way of supporting Auckland and influencing the future of its urban form. Design review really tests your ability to be analytical, and it challenges your ability to articulate design ideas, issues or relationships. It’s easy to have a gut feel about something, but it’s much harder to understand where that feeling comes from and then write it down and/or explain it at a meeting.

After several years on the panel Gavin and Andre are stepping down as part of this refresh. They have each put a huge amount of their time into the panel and in the process honed their analytical expertise and made their mark in the wider urban design network.


Our New Board

Isthmus are pleased to announce a new Board. With a mixture of youth and experience the Board will be firmly focussed on building upon recent change and growth, and leading the practice into the future.

We welcome Isthmus Founder David Irwin back to the Board. David brings a strategic focus combined with deep roots in our purpose and values.

We also welcome three new Board members:  Haylea Muir joined Isthmus a decade ago as a graduate and has grown to become one of our most valued design thinkers;  Helen Kerr has been with Isthmus since the early days and offers a mix of passion, creativity and intelligence; Sarah Bishop has been the lead designer on some of Isthmus’s most challenging design projects over the years, and she was a co-editor of our book Coast, Country, Neighbourhood, City.

Architect Andre de Graaf is the incoming Chair; this reinforces our focus as a design led practice. Andre has been on the Board since he joined Isthmus four years ago and in that time has grown architecture to be a key component of our service offering.

Andre replaces Dion Mortensen as the Chair. Dion will stay on as our Independent Director and continue to build on the transformational work that we have been doing together for the past seven years.

Our design-led CEO Ralph Johns remains on the Board and provides the connection to the Senior Management Team who have responsibility for the operation and management of the business. Ralph has been a Board member since 2009, and CEO since 2013.

And finally, we thank outgoing Board members Brad CoombsGrant Bailey and Duncan Ecob. Brad has been on the Board since 2009, Grant and Duncan since 2013. During that time our design practice has developed significantly.

With a new Board and management structure Isthmus will continue its design-led purpose to advance the relationships between land, people and culture.

Dominion & Valley Road apartments.

Just 4km from Auckland’s CBD, and within the established Mt Eden suburb, the 5,200m2 site on the corner of Dominion and Valley road has swift and frequent public transport services through to the city, and is well catered for with supermarkets, food & beverage and a range of other services. Isthmus has been working with Panuku Development Auckland to create a benchmark residential intensification proposal for this site.

Currently occupied by a series of small single story warehouse and shopfronts, the development gently intensifies this under-utilised space by mediating the transition between the dual conditions of commercial strip and leafy residential suburb. Hybrid typologies for living and working promise to enliven the area.

Four building blocks are arranged to maximise site potential, while fitting with its existing urban context. The blocks are arranged north-south to offer good solar access for each of the 102 units (one, two and three bedroom).

The buildings themselves reference the heritage and character of Dominion Road with the use of robust materials in a formal arrangement that has an overlay of ‘ad-hoc’ additions articulated on the exterior of the buildings to bring depth to the architecture. The design integrates extensive street character assessment and high levels of consultation with various stakeholders.

The project is currently lodged for resource consent with the Auckland Council and will be a notified application with a hearing date that is to be confirmed. It has been through consultation with both local board and the Auckland Urban Design Panel.

Opening up the harbour with a floating archipelago.

Welcome home to the Auld mug. The latest Paper Boy features the Isthmus design concept for the next Americas Cup.

The brief  was to choose a site for an America’s Cup event to be held, and suggest the amenities that could accompany it – be they parks, housing, transport links, or other more outlandish suggestions.

The theme of our concept was:
Ki te kahore he whakakitenga ka ngaro te iwi – Without foresight or vision the people will be lost.

The Maori proverb urges a progressive future for the unification of our people. The America’s Cup is Now Aotearoa’s Cup – The quote made famous in 1995 is translated to give it new meaning, a new purpose and a new origin. America’s Cup has traditionally been an event that is participated by the world’s wealthy boating community – here an opportunity exists.

Inspired by Christo’s floating piers, a promenade is draped over the Waitemata Harbour meandering towards a scaffolded floating pavilion. The pavilions create a new cultural and spectator experience accessible by everyday people. Playfully the promenade moves back and forth connecting land, sea and people. The promenade democratises the water and becomes an extension of the public realm. A synthetic archipelago challenges perception and provokes contemplation. Sitting on the edge between manmade, nature and the spectacle that is the Americas Cup.


Mid-year promotions.

Over the years I’ve observed some characteristics of people that thrive in our studio culture. These individuals are positive, proactive and collaborative. They are self starters. They take the initiative and are quick learners. But most of all, they are independent and self-confident.

In our vibrant studio there’s the opportunity to get involved in the work you want to do and to make your own opportunities. The following people have all progressed their careers this year, and are contributing at an even greater level. They are pushing themselves, getting out of their comfort zones and going the extra mile. Each of them embody our values of creativity, curiosity, authenticity and tenacity.

From Graduate to Intermediate:
Azmon Chetty. Azmon joined isthmus in late 2014 fresh out of Unitec as a graduate architect. Azmon is a furniture maker in his spare time; he’s handy with tools including barbecue ones. Over the last 6 months Azmon has brought a new level of accuracy and speed to the work he has been doing. He‘s developing new skills around construction detailing and design. He is also becoming very adept at complex 3D digital modelling for documentation. You’ll also find him crafting physical models.

From Intermediate to Senior:
Rebecca Jerram. It has been nearly two years now since Rebecca moved back from Melbourne where she had been studying and working for a decade. Rebecca is Registered with AILA & NZILA. We hired her for her skills at the construction end of the design process – she has excellent technical knowledge of landscape construction. She delivers our work on site, dealing with contractors and negotiating the ins-and-outs of NZS3910. Rebecca has delivered a host of landscape projects including parts of Kopupaka Reserve, the Myers Splashpad, Kelston School and Airfields Stage 2. She is currently working on Westgate Town Park.

Travis McGee. Travis joined us nearly four years ago. He quickly showed himself to be very good at grabbing opportunities and running with them. Thrown in the deep end with the Schools PPP2, Trav took on the project management and quickly got his head above water. Travis has shown dedication, working late nights when needed, and just generally mucking in to help out. Trav’s skill at digging a little deeper into his projects and pre-empting the next move has set him up well as a project leader. His ability to take the lead when he needs to means he is a highly valued member of the of Isthmus team.

Brad Ward. Brad joined isthmus a little over 4 years ago. Known affectionately as ‘Brad the Grad’ when he started, he was the first new staff member we hired coming out of the GFC. Brad was quickly absorbed into the Hobsonville team as a safe pair of hands, learning very quickly, always going the extra mile. He did well in the “pressure-cooker” and his career accelerated. In just four years Brad has developed for himself a set of unique and specialist skills in residential masterplanning. Ka pai!

Sophie Jacques. I first met Sophie when she was a student at VUW. She was usually sitting at the back with the boys. Always with her baseball cap, her skateboard and her cheeky, infectious laugh. After uni she headed overseas, gaining 6 years experience in the UK and Australia and becoming something of a skatepark construction specialist. She started with us in February 2014, a specialist in construction management. She has taken this role on a number of complex projects including the Children’s Garden, Wellington Zoo and Kotuku Apartments.


From Senior to Associate:
Alan England. Alan joined us in 2010 as our first visualisation specialist. With a background in architectural studies Alan had previously been working at Build Media. He’s been a backbone of our design planning team working behind the scenes assisting in major projects across the country. He’s been in planes, trains, boats and helicopters, and he’s a qualified pilot himself – of a drone. Over the last 6 months or so Alan has built and consolidated an expanded Geospatial team. He also plays an active role in the development of Isthmus’ Environmental Fund.

From Associate to Principal:
Lisa Rimmer. Before becoming a landscape architect, Lisa forged a successful career as a secondary school teacher. Her thesis topic for her Masters in Landscape Architecture was Visual Assessment Best Practice Methodologies, which have her the opportunity to interview key practitioners across NZ. We hired Lisa in 2008. She has huge passion and really wide range of skills. She is a designer, first and foremost, but she also has rare talent and expertise in RMA planning. On the design side Lisa has contributed to Government House restoration, a host of Wellington Cycleway projects, the Children’s Garden and Christchurch Botanical Gardens masterplan, among many others. Her stand-out Design Planning project has been Kapiti Coast District Landscape Assessment. Lisa is uncompromising on quality.

Sean Burke. Sean joined Isthmus’ Auckland studio in 2001. Since then he has worked on a multitude of projects, with a particular skill for merging planning, design and ecology. Over the years his projects have won the highest national awards from NZILA. And then last year the Taumanu Bridge won the World Architecture News Transport Award! Like his work, Sean is quietly authentic. He works with huge commitment and totally embodies our values. Sean is passionate about the environment and will be working to develop our services in designed ecologies.