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Idea Log

Idealog magazine sent us, and some other creatives around town, a hunk of wood and asked us what we could do with it.

We gave the Idea Log to Architectural Graduate Azmon Chetty who has a reputation around the studio for his hands-on ability with timber. He took it down to our workshop and set to work, inspired to make a connection between land, people and culture. Azmon says,

“The Isthmus Idea Log offers opportunities for play and discovery for a variety of activities, whether it be indoors or outdoors. It’s adaptive nature allows it to provoke creativity and thinking from kids or adults in the environment they are in.

This project makes this connection more obvious in a curious and fun way; as a design for mixed use. The log can be flung in a tree or thrown into the water to see what critters come to inhabit it. Other possibilities could be a bird feeder, hanging pot for plants to be grown on or simply a picnic lamp.”

Brad Coombs, Fellow and President

The NZILA AGM and Conference opening the other week was a big day for Isthmus Principal Brad Coombs. On the same day that he took office as NZILA President, he was also awarded Fellowship of the NZ Institute of Landscape Architects for his two decades of contribution to practice and profession:

“Brad’s contribution to the wider profession, like his contribution within Isthmus, has been achieved in a quiet manner. He is not one to ‘blow his own trumpet’. Yet he has gained mana through his service to others, the quality of his work, and his wisdom.  For these reasons, he fully deserves election as a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects.”

Brad sees the President role as “an opportunity to take a fresh look at where the profession is at, and as an Institute, to confirm the priorities for the next three years and beyond.”

“My first priority will be to get my head around the projects that the Executive has already initiated – particularly the Governance Review and the Landscape Guidelines, and to put in place processes to deliver them for the benefit of our members.”

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