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3 projects Finalists in the 2019 Best Awards

Three Isthmus projects have been announced as finalists in the 2019 Best Design Awards:

The Discovery Garden (for Wellington City Council): Finalist Public and Institutional Spaces.

Barry Curtis Park Pavilion (for Auckland Council): Finalist Colour Award Spatial.

The Chimpanzee Habitat (for Wellington Zoo): Finalist User Experience, Innovating.
All three projects express a distinct personality of place that has emerged from our design process and our land, people, culture ethos.
When we think about the land we consider everything that sits on it. When we consider the people we consider those that came before, those that are there now and those that will inhabit it in the future. When we think about culture we try to understand what the community have done, are doing, and could be doing in future.

Real good sports: Barry Curtis Park Pavilion

Isthmus’s involvement at Barry Curtis Park dates back to the original masterplan in the early 2000s. The park was planned as a hard-working piece of suburban and green infrastructure that is comprised of ‘nests’ of smaller parks, each with varied functions. At the southern end, sports fields integrate with sculpted landforms and waterways, and connect to recreation trails and the John Walker Promenade which circumnavigates the perimeter. It is here that the new pavilion is located, a cheerful orange beacon hovering within a steel frame over the southern terminus of the formal axis.


The new building leverages off the established park landscape and neighbourhood connections to envelop a public space that goes beyond the requirements of sports teams to meet the wider recreational needs of the growing community.  The resulting space is open-source and adaptable –plug and play rather than predetermined in use. Instead of a fixed cafe, the plaza has been designed to host multiple food trucks or simply host a sausage sizzle or coffee cart.

Read the full story of the project at:

Civic Pride: Riddiford Gardens & Civic Park.

Riddiford Gardens, the Hutt Valley’s first public park, has seen nearly a century of change. First founded in the 1920s, the Lower Hutt gardens had their heyday in the 1950s, when the modernist influences of a new Civic Precinct saw a library, community halls, theatre and Council Administration Building constructed within the gardens. Time, however, took its toll on the gardens and a comprehensive restoration and upgrade has been undertaken to bring public life back into the space.

Delivered in three distinct stages across five years, the scale of change resulting from the masterplan vision – and the HCC’s commitment to investment – has delivered massive transformation. The convoluted and unsafe Gardens and city environment is gone, replaced with a vibrant, green, people-friendly space in the centre of Hutt City that restores civic pride.

Read the full story of the project at:




Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has identified a preferred option for a new State Highway 3 route to connect the Manawatū, Tararua District, Hawke’s Bay and northern Wairarapa, to replace the closed SH3 Manawatū Gorge route.

Isthmus are proud to be part of the team selected by the NZTA to deliver the Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project. The Advance consortium includes Fulton Hogan, HEB Construction Limited, Aurecon Limited and WSP-Opus.

Work on the project began in mid-2017 after a series of slips closed the old State Highway 3 through the Manawatū Gorge. After extensive consultation with the community and key stakeholders, the Transport Agency identified a preferred route option running to the north of the Manawatū Gorge in early 2018. A Notice of Requirement for the designated new transport corridor for the replacement route was issued earlier this year.

Enabling works for the new route are scheduled to commence in September 2019. Pending further resource consents, full construction is expected to get underway in 2020, with completion of the project in 2024.

Design Thinker: Nick Kapica

At Isthmus we take an open-minded, inquisitive and inter-disciplinary approach to design. We start without knowing the answer and we pay careful attention to the creative process. Our studio culture incubates ideas; the closer and more collaboratively we work together, the more chance ideas have of spreading, growing, cross-pollinating and transforming.

We are very pleased to welcome into our studio the design thinker Nick Kapica. Nick is a problem solver, a connecter and a communicator who is totally at home in the overlap of our dynamic, inter-disciplinary design studio. He joins us as as Principal, based in Wellington.

Nick studied Visual Communication at Ravensbourne College in the UK then worked as a designer at The Independent newspaper before moving to Berlin in 1989 where he founded SV Associates. Over a 20 year period his work evolved from visual communication to experience design with a strongly human-centered focus.

Nick moved to New Zealand in 2009 to take up the post of Senior Lecturer in Design at Massey University. As a design researcher he operated within two distinct yet related areas of design practice: visual communication design within spatial environments, and the use of spatial environments to enhance and affect users’ experiences within them. In 2017 he joined Wellington City Council as the Design Lead responsible for Brand Experience and pushing ‘design as a process’ deeper into the city council.

Nick is happiest when bringing different people together to build diverse teams that try to understand complex problems and search for unusual solutions. He is already adding his experience in place branding, community collaboration, wayfinding and environmental graphic design into the mix of Isthmus projects across New Zealand.

Penny McIntyre – Isthmus’ new COO

A qualified Accountant, Penny has been a valued and trusted member of the Isthmus team for over a decade now. During that time she has risen from company accountant to Principal of Finance. As a key member of our Studio Management Team, Penny brings 30 years of accumulated professional and life experience to bear on the decisions we make for the business, as well as a cracking sense of humour. She works collaboratively across the studio providing clear financial support to our project managers, financial analysis for the Board and management team as well as process improvements that help the studio perform at its best.

Penny has grown as Isthmus has grown; our turnover has increased by 400% in the last five years. She is authentic, courageous, empathetic and extremely loyal. In addition to finance, Penny has a solid sense of fairness and is a keen supporter of the many unique threads that weave the Isthmus culture together. All of this has set Penny up for success as she steps into the Chief Operating Officer (COO) role to head our business operations.

As COO Penny will lead our team including Finance, IT, HR and Admin as well as manage our relationships with external suppliers such as Legal, Insurance and Health & Safety. Penny is excited about the opportunity and is, as always, ready for the next challenge.