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Chimpanzee habitat upgrade

Wellington Zoo’s chimpanzees (the largest troupe in New Zealand) will be seeing an update to their habitat in 2018. The upgrade will provide an improved environment for the chimps, as well as giving visitors the opportunity to have a more immersive experience. Plans are at the end of developed design stage, with construction expected to be completed mid to late 2018.

“Our chimpanzees and their welfare are very important to us, the main aim of the new habitat design has been to increase the complexity of the chimp’s environment to better allow their natural behaviours to occur,” said Karen Fifield MNZM, Chief Executive of Wellington Zoo.

As a conservation organisation, Wellington Zoo aims to connect people with animals so that visitors are inspired to make choices in their own lives that help save animals in the wild.

“Chimpanzees are seriously affected by habitat loss, so one thing we encourage our visitors to do is look for the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on paper and wood products, which guarantees that those products are sourced in a way that doesn’t threaten the habitat of animals in the wild,” said Karen.


Keeping it Real

Last Friday we held our annual Isthmus Conference – this is the one day a year when our whole studio gathers together. First, each one of our eighty strong team shared what ‘keeping it real’ means to them – what keeps us grounded. We laughed, and we cried.

We then heard from guest speaker Gael Surgenor about her work at the Southern Initiative to tackle the complex and interconnected challenges that face south Auckland communities. With that in mind we then spent the afternoon in teams engaged in hand-on design research in the ‘forgotten’ suburb Te Atatu South, coming up with ideas of how to reverse social isolation and celebrate the latent potential of its people. We built ten bikes which we gifted to the grassroots community group Heart Of Te Atatu South.

We finished up back at the studio for chilled Wellington-studio-brewed beers, amazing food from the Lucky Taco truck, prize-giving and the highlight of the evening; the debut performance from Aotearoa-alt-country collective The Oiois – all the musicians are members of Isthmus.

It was an inspiring day – fantastic to be able to give something back to the community and at the same time strengthen the shared purpose of our team – that’s what keeping it real looks like.



Five Promotions

We review our team twice a year as part of our process of continual improvement. Today we promoted five people who take the initiative, are quick learners and most of all, are independent and self-confident. These traits have enabled them to make the most of opportunities to progress their careers. They are all pushing themselves, getting out of their comfort zones.

From Graduate to Intermediate:

Aaron Miller. Aaron graduated with Masters of Architecture from VUW in 2016. He’s worked on the Kumutoto North pavilion, Cadness Apartments, Porirua CBD’s canopies, Cobham Drive Cycleway, McKee Energy Centre and the Chimp Enclosure at Wellington Zoo. He brings both skill and passion to his work, surpassing expectations. He has a calm and open demenour, and regularly contributes to design conversations and studio culture in general.

Greta Christensen. Greta came to work for Isthmus a little over over two years ago. She’s worked on Richmond Stage 3 concept, developed and resource consent packages; Onehunga Mall resource consent package; Sunderland Gully concept design; and Clevedon North. Greta has the ability to work independently and is not afraid of a design challenge. She’s a proactive problem solver.

Alex Foxton. Alex has been with us for close to a year now, since he moved to NZ from the UK. In that time he has made a solid impression on the studio. Key projects he’s been involved with over that time are; Barry Curtis Pavilion Plaza, Browns Bay and Freyberg Place. He’s shown his ability to deliver major aspects of projects with autonomy – he’s a very safe pair of hands.

Intermediate to Senior:

Julia Wick. Julia joined isthmus a year and a half ago as a design planner. She has quickly proved herself on Farm Street; Half Moon Bay Marina Extension Assessment;  Puhoi to Warkworth; and The Western Firth of Thames Marine Farm. Julia keeps a calm head under pressure, supporting the design planning team on large scale strategic projects. She’s on the NZILA Executive as well as being involved with the Resource Management Law Association through the Young RMLA Group.

Marita Hunt. Marita is interested in everything; she is a Specialist Generalist. She’s worked on a huge range of projects since joining Isthmus. Going forward Marita will be focusing on design planning, which combines her analytical, logical, methodical mind with an innate ability to communicate ideas through writing and drawing. Marita loves learning. She’s working hard at Te Reo. And she knows how to keep herself in balance – she’s an isthmus yoga regular.

IFLA Asia-Pacific Awards

The International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Asia-Pacific Region held its Awards on last Friday night in Bangkok. The Awards aim to “create a stronger awareness and recognition of landscape architecture as one of the key professions that has played a key role in shaping our cities and our environments towards a better, more resilient future”.

Sean Burke travelled to Thailand representing Isthmus (and the Pacific). He picked up no less than five of these prestigious awards for two Auckland projects:

Cultural and Urban Landscape Category

Award of Excellence, Kopupaka Reserve


Infrastructure Category

Outstanding Award, Kopupaka Reserve

Outstanding Award, Taumanu Reserve

Parks and Open Space Category

Outstanding Award, Taumanu Reserve

Honourable Mention, Kopupaka Reserve

We thank IFLA for recognising what we are doing to unite land, people and culture. And we thank our clients and the many collaborators and contractors with whom we have worked to deliver these innovative and authentic spaces.

Small, but Smart

As part of the NZIA’s Festival of Architecture 2017, the Auckland Design Manual Team ran an interactive exhibition that explored what the ‘New Auckland Home’ could look like. In the past, the ‘Auckland home’ has been synonymous with the villa or the bungalow but today, with the emergence of the Unitary Plan and the evolution of the Auckland housing market the typical Auckland home is changing.

Visitors to the exhibition viewed exemplars of different new housing typologies and were asked to vote for the one they would choose as home. The most popular, beating all other typologies, was a standalone house on a freehold section; albeit a small house on a small section.

“At 40m2 the Axis Small Home (by Isthmus and Architecture Workshop) is tiny, but it’s also affordable, sustainable and can fit into an existing backyard.

Affordability weighed heavily on voters’ minds, but price wasn’t the bottom line. Good design was a strong selling point for this home, and for voters that didn’t mean grand architectural statements or expensive materials, it meant efficient use of space with a simple, but elegant design.

While Aucklanders are ready to move on from the quarter acre section, they still want a backyard. Having just enough space to grow a few veges, have a BBQ, and enjoy some sun satisfied many voter’s outdoor needs.

Smaller homes weren’t just preferred by the singles amongst us. Voters with families also showed a trend of voting for compact, affordable homes, so long as they had some green space for the kids and pets.”


Bird of the Year

To celebrate the winner of Bird of the Year 2017 – announced by Forest & Bird earlier this week – here are some photos of the walk-through kea aviary at Wellington Zoo’s Meet the Locals He Tuku Aroha that we completed earlier this year. Sadly, with maybe as few as 3,000 kea left in the wild, this is possibly the closest many people will get to the cheeky, endangered mountain parrot.