Isthmus

We nurture a strong studio culture. Our inter-disciplinary team of designers share a common purpose. We work together as ‘one studio’, putting forward best-for-project teams with the right blend of skills and knowledge. In this way every client gains access to the depth and breadth our collective experience and intelligence.

Aaron Miller

Aaron Miller.

MArch (Prof), BAS, NZIA Grad

Intermediate Architectural Graduate

Wellington Studio   

Aaron has a keen eye for detail and has applied this to a range of architecture projects since joining the team in 2016.
As a systems thinker, Aaron has a keen interest in offsite construction – prefabricated and modular systems – and is excited to see isthmus moving into this space. He also regularly uses his skills in other scales across landscape architecture and urban design, having particular interest in the various cycleway projects Isthmus is involved with. Aaron has always been interested in the interaction between building, landscape and place to create well integrated and site-specific architecture, and isthmus projects strive to achieve this every day.

Outside of work Aaron enjoys the outdoors, whether it be a tramp or fishing adventure, and also sings in a local youth choir.

Abbie Whangapirita

Abbie Whangapirita.

BAS, MArch

Architect

Wellington Studio   

Abbie is absofreakinlutely into educational building design. She once designed a school in Christchurch with a fully functional café in the midst of it. Breaking the boundaries not only in traditional school ideologies but in public interactions as well. The operation was so successful she says, ‘I think they had to put out messages to the public about the least busy time to come!’

Opening up educational facilities to also serve the wider school community is the trajectory of learning says this creative thinker. She’s coming to these conclusions after a myriad of discussions with students and teachers about what they want their school to look like and who they want it to serve. ‘Keeping in mind schools are all individual,’ Abbie meticulously points out. There is no one-design-fits all.

Being open to nonorthodox approaches she comfortably works along landscape designers and urban designers, ‘They help me think about architecture beyond the building edge. Into spaces that translate from the inside to out. And they’re more used to dealing with land, so having architects around probably elevates ‘form’ in their consciousness.’

Abbie has been designing in Wellington for the past seven years with most of her architectural experience in ‘purpose built’ (educational) buildings across New Zealand. She has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies and a Masters in Architecture. Her thesis was on the ‘The Physical Body: How It Engages With Buildings.’

Abigail Hilario

Abigail Hilario.

Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

‘A house is connected to the street, a street is connected to a city, the city is connected to a wider area and so on,’ says Architectural Graduate Abigail. ‘It’s good to connect the dots. There is always an overlap between what architects, landscape designers and urban planners do here.’

On a day to day basis I am dealing with projects overloaded with information. This has to be digested in such a short amount of time; because everything needs to keep moving, but it’s key to understand the big picture.  

Housing as we know it is also advancing. ‘I think now everything is being designed to be compact, really tight, dense spaces,’ says Abi. ‘But it’s up to us to find the value in that — such as embracing community appeal.’ 

I have found that privacy can be achieved through different heights. And you don’t need to build a wall to create boundaries. Plantings or screens also define spaces, as might a building’s placement on a street, explains Abi. ‘If there is easy access to the street there’s less chance of the residents feeling isolated or disconnected.’ 

Abi’s wide angle view is perhaps a footprint of her international experience. She was born in the Philippines and moved to New Zealand with her family in 2008. She went on to achieve a Bachelor of Architectural Studies from the University of Auckland and a Master of Architecture (Professional) with first class honours.

Projects Abigail Hilario has worked on:

Alan England

Alan England.

Bachelor of Architectural Studies

Associate Geospatial Specialist

Auckland Studio   

Alan is trained in architectural studies and brings to Isthmus experience within the visualisation, design, gaming and architectural industries.

He plays a key role in major design and planning projects, producing GIS land analysis, mapping and accurate 3D digital models for design studies, communication and as expert evidence for consent hearings.
Alan has an in depth knowledge of digital design tools, techniques and IT, and a proactive approach to working with project teams. He also has a role in the development and delivery of social enterprise projects associated with Isthmus’ environmental management fund.

Alex Foxon

Alex Foxon.

PgDip Landscape Architecture

Senior Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Alex has experience in landscape design for residential development, public park and stream reinstatement projects.
He is driven by creating landscapes for people to explore and use for health and well-being, leisure and education. The process of taking a project from the concept through to detailed design along with planting design is particularly interesting for Alex. 

Alex takes every opportunity he has to continue exploring the New Zealand landscape and documenting his travels through photography.

Projects Alex Foxon has worked on:

Alison Graham

Alison Graham.

Studio Concierge

Wellington Studio   

Alison is a proud Wellingtonian who loves living in the inner city as an apartment dweller. Prior to commencing work with Isthmus Alison has had administration experience working as a Legal Assistant for a small legal practice.

Alison thrives in a fast paced studio environment working with deadlines and balances the day to day functioning of the studio. With people as her passion, no job is too big or too small for her to undertake.

Andre de Graaf

Andre de Graaf.

BArch, NZRAB Registered Architect, NZIA

Principal

Auckland Studio    Board Members   

Andre is the Director of Architecture. He has shaped a high quality architectural team that is fully integrated with the firm’s wider design offering.  Andre brings a rigorous and inquiring approach to design and has considerable experience in masterplans for intensive residential and mixed-use developments that is founded in over two decades of designing buildings across a wide spectrum.  Andre brings skills that champion innovation and is sought after for his strategic design thinking.

Thinking by Andre de Graaf:

Andrew Mirams

Andrew Mirams.

Dip AD, BAS

Principal

Auckland Studio    Board Members   

Andrew brings over twenty years of professional experience specialising in Architecture and Interiors. His expertise includes a wide range of projects including residential (single family and multi-residential), commercial, interiors and fit-outs, with a particular passion in building refurbishment and adaptive re-use.  Outside the studio, Andrew can be found taxiing his children around Auckland sportsfields.

Andrew Norriss

Andrew Norriss.

BLA (Hons), NZILA Registered

Senior Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Andrew specialises in medium to large scale urban renewal projects in the public realm. He has built his experience largely around the implementation of projects varying from civic plazas, parks and open spaces, strategic masterplan frameworks, and work within botanical gardens. He enjoys the challenge of stitching a landscape into its existing fabric, whether urban or within the natural landscape.

Andrew enjoys exploring what culinary delights a place has on offer as much as escaping to the natural environment to recharge. He is equally likely to be found in front of a stove or out and about keeping active.

Ashley West

Ashley West.

MArch (Prof) Hons.

Intermediate Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

‘Have you thought about a kitchen?’ asks Ashley, ‘People always cluster around the island instead of sitting at a table. If you understand how people think —the psychology— then you can start designing in a more thoughtful way.’

Such as detailing bedrooms which allow chest of drawers. Often in architectural plans bedrooms are only depicted with a bed. ‘When in reality you have furniture too,’ Ashley brings up,  ‘often it’s a small room and the result is you end up winding your way around all the things sticking out.’

Generally the lack of storage means the garage gets used. ‘When the whole street of garages are full, all the cars are on the road. That changes the street,’ says Ashley.

Everyone feels comfortable driving on the road but there aren’t any very many neutral spaces for people to stop and have an opportunity to interact or play. Which is one of the problems we have with the built environment.’

The Intermediate Architect says it is scary designing apartments and terrace homes knowing people will decide less and less to have animals which may create an influx of strays. ‘We’re not at the point yet where we are designing apartments for dogs. Australia does it. They have apartments with a pet care business on the ground floor and there are little yards, everyone is animal friendly.’

Mixed residential and commercial would be something she would like to see more of, though she says the reason it’s not being done is because the numbers don’t add up. But having one huge node in the city where everybody has to commute to is currently not working. Ashey says, ‘I don’t even know what the right design would look like but it’s interesting to think about what a design would look like if we were trying to look after each other and improve social connectedness.’

Azmon Chetty

Azmon Chetty.

BAS, M.Arch (Prof), NZDAT

Intermediate Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

Azmon holds a National Diploma in Architectural Technology and completed his Masters of Architecture (Prof). in 2013.
Through his engagement in part time work with architectural practices over the past few years, Azmon has gained valuable experience, including excellent design and CAD drafting skills.

Azmon’s passion for innovative construction detailing and assembly compliments the established and growing architecture team at Isthmus. His Masters research paper focused on a design-build project blending Polynesian and Japanese architecture, reflecting his unique hands-on approach and understanding of cultural design vernacular and identity.

Ben Scott

Ben Scott.

Associate Information Technologist

Auckland Studio   

‘Computers have the brains of worms. You have to tell them what to do. They don’t know how to do it themselves. It is just starting on the era where they can actually learn a bit get a bit clever. I hope the big A.I. doesn’t hear that and see me as an enemy from now on.’

If they did they might be a little bit worried because Associate Information Technologist, Ben Scott says with a grin he has plans to rule the world and become an über meister. Jokes aside if practicing makes one a master then Ben wouldn’t be far off.

Being the sole I.T. person for both Isthmus studios in Auckland and Wellington his role ranges from resolving I.T. queries, updating software and hardware, to ensure the company is secure. ‘The systems we run are fairly simple. Too much complexity can bring breakpoints we don’t need.’

Ben explains designers use more complex, resources intensive ‘tools’. Such as heavy duty hardware to be able to run the graphic components for the software they are using.

‘For a computer moving graphics is not so much the thing we see on the screen but lots & lots & of information going back and forth inside the hardware. It’s all 1’s and 0’s,’ says Ben.

Ultimately Ben would like to do himself out of a job. Having the I.T. run so smoothly that he does not need to be called. Until then he says, ‘I like the paradigms that Isthmus runs with, the community.’

In addition to being the I.T. Associate, Ben is part of the Operations, Health & Safety teams, oh and the occasional handy-man.

Blair Brixton

Blair Brixton.

BLA (Hons) NZILA Registered

Associate Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Blair is a landscape architect with significant experience within range of commercial and public realm projects in both New Zealand and in the United Kingdom. They include urban regeneration and waterfront projects, large urban parks, historic squares and small scale site specific interventions and installations. In his roles he has regularly led multidisciplinary teams from inception to project completion. He particularly enjoys detailed design phases and the realisation of projects.

Blair has a passion and respect for good design across all disciplines and so embraces Isthmus ‘no boundaries’ approach to design.

Projects Blair Brixton has worked on:

Brad Coombs

Brad Coombs.

BLA (Hons), BHort. FNZILA (Registered)

Principal

Auckland Studio   

Brad works in the complex world of problem solving under the RMA.  He thrives on navigating a path through the RMA process and also loves the practicality of seeing his projects implemented and delivering maximum benefit to his clients.

With over 20 years of experience Brad has worked on some of the most exciting and challenging residential, infrastructure and coastal projects in New Zealand, always delivered through a considered and tailored response to the specific project and the land.  He is passionate about his role in helping to make New Zealand an even better place.  Brad has considerable experience as an expert witness to Council, Environment Court and Board of Inquiry hearings and as an RMA decision maker.

Brad is a Fellow and a Registered member of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA) as well as being the current President.

Travelling extensively throughout New Zealand for his work during the week, Brad can be found on the weekend discovering the land from a different vantage point either on his bike or on the water – preferably with his family in tow.

Projects Brad Coombs has worked on:

Brad Ward

Brad Ward.

MLA, BAS (Land), NZILA (Reg)

Associate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

The master planner comes to us from the Northcote suburb regeneration. A project which he leads. It is due to be completed by 2025. Brad Ward crossing to you live from Northcote.

‘We met Northcote locals to find out what they needed before we started. This resulted in the design of ‘Everyday Houses’. People didn’t want granite bench tops — just stainless steel and things like warm, dry walls,’ explains Brad.

‘I think it’s working. There are refinements to be done because as with all master plans, the second it is done, it’s obsolete. It is just a point in time. A moment later it has changed. Whether we know about it or not! There’s probably 15–20 other professions in each of these projects; roading engineers, geo-techs, planners…who all have input.’

This designer is not fussed what the build looks like if it is right for the neighbourhood, ‘You don’t create master plans in your head,’ says Brad. ‘It’s about understanding the place, the community, the site, the opportunities and constraints.’

‘In Roskill South, the community had a connection with two Puriri trees on a private lot and ear-marked for removal. Working with the client we were able to put a covenant over those trees. Whilst they are still in private ownership, the developer who buys them will never be able to remove the trees. The client took a reduction in housing yield because they recognised the social value of the trees to residents. 

‘Every project has a ‘key move’ and that’s the one thing we hold onto. These are not massive things. We just look for something pivotal to improve the lives of the people that live there.’

Brad originally studied architecture, then crossed over to landscape design. He has worked at Isthmus for 7 years, starting as a graduate, being promoted through the ranks to Master Planner.

Brennan Baxley

Brennan Baxley.

Master of Landscape Architecture II – Harvard GSD

Intermediate Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Art classes became architecture study. Architecture (3rd year) became landscape design. Landscape design became Master of Landscape Architecture II from Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Brennan says, ‘We call ourselves landscape architects because we must be able to bridge people to place. Theory to practice. Landscape isn’t just plants. It is about people, culture, planting, urban design and geography.’

Over the subsequent 10 years the designer worked in New England, Florida, Switzerland and now New Zealand. Brennan concludes, ‘Travel makes you understand the planet. See there are different ways of doing things. You’re constantly learning from others because they have different perspectives.’

‘Waikanae to Waipaoa, Isthmus culturally mapped the area. A foray of respect to mana whenua and taonga. Out of this we created a strategy for sustainable land use. We understood the cultural history, the past of the harbor and defined Maori stories for future place-making.’

‘I’ve become a specialist in gathering and analysing information. Putting this into presentations using GIS as a tool. To show the relationship we have with our landscape. Identifying the areas of cultural heritage or places of ecology.’

‘With this appreciation of ecology, landscape architecture has evolved into a more science-based practice in the last couple of decades. It’s an opportunity for us as designers to tap into something which is responsible —responsive— to say imminent disaster which is obviously the result of climate change or even increased natural significant events.’

Brennan’s thesis was on social resilience and natural disasters.

Caroline Sollerhed

Caroline Sollerhed.

BSc Spatial Planning, MSc Urban Design

Intermediate Urban Designer

Wellington Studio   

Caroline works on a range of projects supporting the landscape and design team. Her recent work has included streetscapes, open space strategy and cycleways. She has a keen interest in the relationship between urban and rural, public spaces and community involvement.  

Caroline hails from Sweden, is a climbing enthusiast and enjoys exploring New Zealand’s landscapes and native wildlife.

Chelsea Kershaw

Chelsea Kershaw.

Graduate Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Chelsea is interested in large scale master-planning with keen attention to detail.
She is driven to design landscapes which improve environmental health, as well as the spiritual, mental, physical, and social well-being of the community.
Chelsea is passionate about exploring New Zealand’s natural and built landscapes through her numerous outdoor hobbies such as rock climbing, skiing, hiking, trail running, and cycling.

Projects Chelsea Kershaw has worked on:

Christine Spring

Christine Spring.

BE, MSc Eng, MBA

Non-Executive Director

Board Members   

Christine is a Non-Executive Director and chairperson of the Isthmus Group Board. Her background is in Civil Engineering with a particular focus on strategic aviation planning and infrastructure development. Christine is an experienced Director and currently sits on the boards of Auckland International Airport Ltd, Western Sydney Airport Ltd, Unison Networks Ltd and Unison Contracting Services Ltd. She also has a background that includes 15 years working as a consulting engineer. Christine’s commitment to innovation, creativity and strategic thinking provides a good alignment with Isthmus ethos, culture, vision and values.

Dale Harrop

Dale Harrop.

MLA

Senior Urban Designer

Auckland Studio   

Dale comes from a background in local government working in both New Zealand and Australia on city wide strategic plans and community placemaking projects before moving to Isthmus.

Dale works largely on strategic masterplanning projects that focus on building and supporting new neighborhoods and communities.

Dale enjoys spending his time playing Ice Hockey nationally and internationally, he also has recently discovered a new passion for scuba diving.

Damian Powley

Damian Powley.

BLA, NZILA

Associate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua.
As we (people) disappear from sight, the land remains.

I always remind myself of this whakatauki when conceptualising our role as designers of the land. As designers to me it’s about recognising where we ‘fit’ into that continuum.

‘We’re not the be all and end all,’ says Associate Landscape Architect Damian, ‘and our role is to dig deeper, develop and build layers recognising our moment in time.’ 

‘A lot of what I do is around connecting and involving the people for whom the project is for, into our design process’ says the designer with 14 years of experience. Honouring community throughout a project is important because they are the ones that live there.

‘The skill of a good designer is being able to spot the diamonds in the rough garnered from active participation in the design process. One cool example was a skate park; typically a place for skateboarders. But what came through from the locals is that they wanted families to feel safe there too — a place for everyone whether you skate or not. This challenged our assumptions about the use of space. How do we make it more inclusive? Connecting the space as part of the wider park, with viewing areas and visual cues to allow people to move through space. It needed to be self-managing too. Therefore we planted Aloe Vera for cuts and scratches and lemon trees to go with a feed from the nearby fish and chips shop. As non-locals, there are often the little things that can get missed if our end users are not involved. But they can make a huge difference to the way a space feels. These places need to thrive long after the design team has gone.’

‘And you know, for each and every project we do, it constantly fascinates me — how we can uncover our inherent connections between people and place. It wasn’t until I started to learn a bit more about my taha Māori side, that I found there’s not just synergies between Te Ao Māori and design approaches to the land — good design is one and the same. And we do have an inherently unique story to tell here in Aotearoa.’

Projects Damian Powley has worked on:

Thinking by Damian Powley:

Dan Cole

Dan Cole.

BDes (Hons)

Visualiser

Auckland Studio   

Some people think 3D artists only work for Weta Workshop so Dan has to explain he makes the image on a signboard that makes you buy an apartment, sight unseen, of a plan, ‘It’s a cool job but a weird one’. For over a decade, Dan has helped get projects out of the computer where they are all in plan and elevation (technically beautiful) into a public space.

Multi million dollar projects often need public buy-in. The community may not read consent notification or plans but they will comprehend a picture.For example Dan is part of the team visualising pictures of the new Auckland ferry basin development, ‘It’s part photography, part storytelling and a lot of tinkering’.

Dan has worked across multiple industry programmes. He now specialises in a core industry standards 3DSMax & After Effects. He is happiest when he can be working in a model —on his screen— using ‘blocking’ to establish the ‘landscape’; scale and light effects to create the 3D illusion. It boils down to evoking emotion about a space that hasn’t been created yet says Dan. ‘My work helps everyone understand how a space will be used, lived in and integrate with the surroundings’.

There are other ways to illustrate to the public. VR, infographics, animations, models. This is part of Dan’s role too, to consider how to best tell the story. If the scale is hard to comprehend an animation might work. Or if people need to be educated on the benefits of an idea perhaps an info-graphic-mapping exercise or a model would be better suited. ‘However if it is still and it is done right, then I have captured that unique moment within the design that sells the whole idea.’

The kernel of his role today began when Dan qualified with honours in a Bachelor of Design in Interior Architecture, Victoria University School of Design.

Danny Turgeon

Danny Turgeon.

MLA, ENV SP, LEED GA

Intermediate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Danny specialises on large scale public works that connect and revitalise diverse metropolitan communities and neighbourhoods. He has a keen interest in public transit which he has used exclusively after selling his car in 2009.

Projects Danny Turgeon has worked on:

David Irwin

David Irwin.

BHort. PG Dip. LA

Founding Principal

Auckland Studio    Board Members   

David is a founding Director of Isthmus and Fellow of the NZILA with over thirty years’ experience in the field of landscape architecture and urban design. His experience encompasses a wide range of projects throughout New Zealand including large scale urban developments, town centres, coastal edges and residential framework planning. David specialises in providing design leadership in complex project teams. His work has been awarded numerous times by the NZILA for its quality, innovation and contribution to place making for communities in New Zealand.

Ellie Helliwell

Ellie Helliwell.

BLA (Hons)

Intermediate Urban Designer

Auckland Studio   

Imagine a world where everyone lived in their own bubble and had to deal with their own pollution? Elena suggests this would stop people buying water bottles and throwing them away. She admits it is the secret greenie in her. But then again she is a landscape designer.  

‘Previously it has been easy to put a couple of plants in your garden,’ says Elena ‘but due to the metamorphosis in housing we are moving into generations who don’t have gardens only shared spaces. 

‘If we want to change land use and we are short of land, how can we either mitigate the impact or should we  be doing that at all? And in that case what’s the alternative?’ 

‘I like to encourage questioning of the moves we make in plans and discussing how everything relates to the wider context. And if I think the client is not pushing a project to the full potential I’ll seek the opportunity to discuss a different direction (with justification) to revitalise the blueprint.’

Humbling designs are right down Elena’s alley. Working with community-initiated groups has changed her perspective on the role of small scale design in urban environments, ‘One recent project is a plant nursery that is run by a charitable trust and it needs to be relocated and enlarged. It provides employment for humanity. When you see the two people  who have come from all walks of life come together you see your role in the wider perspective of a community. We don’t have those spaces very often. Being able to bring together micro-communities through design is the butterfly effect which I never thought I’d be able to do but I’m doing it!’

Elena is an Intermediate Urban Designer with a BLA (Hons) with 4 years experience in NZ design practices.

Frank Hoffmann

Frank Hoffmann.

Dipl.-Ing., B.Eng., Ing.

Intermediate Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Frank is a Landscape Architect from Germany and enjoys the variety of projects across all work stages in the intersection of landscape architecture, climate adaptation, strategy, urbanism and nature. His strong holistic planning approach through stakeholder engagement and design workshops is complemented by his sketching and illustration skills. Communicating ideas and visions to both public and private clients is a major element in his design – thinking and ensures the targeted audience understands the key project elements and design intent. His passion to understand open space better in its complexity is driven by the connection of the landscape and its intended users to provide an appropriate “sense of place”. He is probably the only one in the studio not drinking coffee – and still manages to come through the day.

If not in the studio, Frank can be found outdoors exploring countries and cultures with his backpack while maintaining a mix of adventurous sports such as rock-climbing, surfing, mountain biking or mountaineering.

Gabrielle Free

Gabrielle Free.

Intermediate Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

Intermediate architectural graduate, Gabrielle has an ethos of thinking about people using the space rather than designing for her own ego or concept. ‘I like to think environmental culture and bring those materials or ideas into the design.’ She does that by getting in touch with people who are knowledgeable about local environs or going on site visits.

Getting the information she needs doesn’t always need to be purely business says Gabrillelle. Since she spends a third of her life at work, it’s important to her to appreciate the connections with clients, contractors, suppliers, colleagues. ‘This helps when things get really stressful, reminding myself I do enjoy it. I might talk about the most mundane, least glamorous project you could imagine but I try to always find a way to have fun.’ Besides she has found this brings peoples’ boundaries down and opens up conversations.

Playfulness an inherent part of creativity can easily get lost in the design process. ‘As architects we are told to aim high, but knowing that things will cut out along the way she says it seems prudent to make the design as simple as possible from the start seems to be one way to counteract this.’

Recently seeing Hobsonville Point where she designed a few of the houses, before she left on a round the world tour, gave Gabrielle great delight. ‘I hadn’t seen anything I had designed before.’ 

Projects Gabrielle Free has worked on:

Gavin Lister

Gavin Lister.

BA Dip LA (Post grad), M Urb. Des.

Founding Principal

Auckland Studio   

Gavin is a founding Director of Isthmus and Fellow of the NZILA with over twenty five years’ experience in the field of landscape architecture and urban design. Gavin specialises in the integrated design and planning of large scale infrastructure projects, such as highways and renewable energy projects including windfarms and geothermal plants.

With a high level of expertise in regional landscape assessment and policy, Gavin regularly provides expert evidence and has acted as an Independent RMA Commissioner. His work has won numerous NZILA National Awards for Design and Landscape Planning.

Thinking by Gavin Lister:

Ginny Pedlow

Ginny Pedlow.

B.Arch, ANZIA (Registered)

Principal Architect

Auckland Studio   

My involvement in architecture over 25 years encompasses public buildings, education, medium density housing, and single house residential work.

My focus is on design excellence, always looking for spatial opportunities to shape space.

Projects Ginny Pedlow has worked on:

Grant Bailey

Grant Bailey.

BLA, NZILA (Registered)

Principal Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Grant leads the Isthmus Space service with our team of landscape architects to deliver high-quality design solutions. A landscape architect with over 17 years of public and private sector experience Grant is a proven design leader, he has directed innovative award-winning, large-scale complex urban public realm, open space and infrastructure project’s. Grant is at the forefront of green infrastructure and open-space master planning, his project experience covers recreation, commercial, residential, civic, transport, water and education sectors. With a collaborative approach he works across stakeholders, design teams, and specialists including integration of public art. He has served on the Isthmus board and is active in the governance and leadership of the practice.

Greg Lee

Greg Lee.

BAS, BArch, NZRAB Registered Architect, NZIA

Associate Architect

Auckland Studio   

Greg is a graduate from the University of Auckland and since then he has worked on many residential projects from small alterations to large high end homes and Apartments. He became a Registered Architect at the beginning of 2015. His interest is in detailed design and he enjoys taking design ideas and working them through to finished buildings.

Greg is a Certified Diver and is always looking for a new exciting dive site, extra bonus if the fishing is good too.

Hannah Carson

Hannah Carson.

MLA, BLA

Graduate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Visualise walking in the wetlands. There’s a QR code on the boardwalk so you hold your smartphone up. It goes into augmented reality. You can still see the scene around you. Overlaid visually is a story of land, with audio. It turns out you share this pathway with the eels.

Creator of the ‘Award of Excellence’ NZILA 2019 Awards Hannah explains, ‘There is a direct relationship between cultural narratives and landscapes. I wanted to find a new way to bring these stories to life. All you need is a trigger image (e.g. QR code) which an app recognizes. Then the audio & visual works whatever landscape you’re in.  

‘This was my thesis project and I called it Whispering Tales. The Maori culture is an oral culture, stories are told from one generation to the next. However, this app would widen the audience. For example when you hold up your phone to the Tararua Ranges you’d learn about the story of Maui and fishing up the North Island. The Tararua Ranges are the spine of the fish. A representative from the Ngati Kahungungu from Wairarapa generously shared their stories of tribe & land with me.

Hannah says she likes to engage with a space rather than it just being scenery, ‘Like sound I find interesting. Running water, or trees — you can hear them. Mostly aren’t aware it is happening, but it contributes to overall experience.

‘I like that about landscape architecture, there is so much variation. It’s never a set thing. It’s changing all the time. The weather and even the sun going up and down. There are so many elements you must think about.’

Harriet Hudson

Harriet Hudson.

MArch(Prof)

Graduate Architect

Auckland Studio   

‘This is a photo of me at Arkles Bay, Whangaparaoa. I frequent it regularly as it’s only 5 or 10 minutes from home,’ says Architectural Graduate Harriet. ‘I find inspiration from places like that, appreciating the ‘lived experience’ or how it makes you feel.

‘One of my university projects (2018) was set in Meadowbank, Auckland within the constraints of the new Unitary Plan. We had 600m² and we had to put in x 10 two-bedroom apartments. The development is actually going ahead and the developer wanted to compare his own plans with architectural students’ visions. 

‘Because cultivating a sense of community is what I was looking for, instead of having a box in the middle of the site, I divided structure into two parallel lines, connecting it by a series of switching staircases between the apartments. This created a grassy internal ‘street’ for mingling. Encouraging apartment dwellers to live in a more three-dimensional way rather than in a single direction: just facing the street. I wondered what it might be like to have different angled views — towards each other, and even the sky.

‘Creative and playful design is not just for children. Adults just as much appreciate a good slide or something fun like that. It comes back to challenging the existing dialogue of architecture.’

‘I like looking at playful spaces and fostering them in the urban-landscape. Rather than it being something that is controlled by institutions like Disneyland. We can instead bring creative design back into the everyday lives of the public.’

Haylea Muir

Haylea Muir.

BLA (Hons), NZILA (Registered)

Principal Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio    Board Members   

Alongside her extensive experience in large scale residential masterplanning projects and writing Architecture and Landscape design guidelines, Haylea has had a primary role in several award winning play spaces. She has a special interest in how people live, play and connect in their neighbourhoods.
Haylea is also an amateur photographer who’s travel destinations are usually chosen on the basis of indulging this hobby.

Thinking by Haylea Muir:

Hayley Smith

Hayley Smith.

BAS, MArch (Prof)

Architect

Auckland Studio   

Hayley brings to Isthmus a range of design and leadership skills combined with a positive, energetic approach to architecture.

She has professional experience in both New Zealand and London on small scale residential designs, large scale developments and commercial architecture.

Hayley represents Isthmus on the NZIA Auckland committee and focuses on building strong relationships with fellow industry members, clients, consultants and suppliers.

Helen Kerr

Helen Kerr.

BLA (Hons), NZILA (Registered)

Principal Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Helen has grown deep roots with Isthmus since 1999, and is invested in our kaupapa of land, people and culture. She takes a collaborative approach to her work, and finds that exploring and creating with communities is the real deal- knowing when to listen, when to observe and when to lead.

Play is her passion, finding the story of place is her skill, and wellbeing is her mission. She believes we should invest in the future of children and whanau by supporting community networks, sparking positive change and creating healthy habitats. Through leadership of award winning destination projects, Helen always strives to weave together the narrative of land, people and culture through the design process – whether it be Botanic Gardens, greenways, Universities, learning landscapes, parks or playspaces.

Ivy Llanera

Ivy Llanera.

BAS Land, MLA (Merit), NZILA Grad

Intermediate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Ivy works closely with the masterplanning team, where she gets to develop her knowledge and skills in residential masterplanning, superlot designs, and streetscape and planting designs. She mostly helps in production and delivers graphic, technical and written deliverables. Ivy has a strong passion in landscape urbanism, urban informality and designing with communities. She is also a foodie. She loves experimenting with food and unleashing her other side of creativity in the kitchen. 

Projects Ivy Llanera has worked on:

James Pattullo

James Pattullo.

MLA, (Merit), BAS (Land), NZILA Grad

Senior Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

James is involved in a broad range of projects from coastal and open space strategies to urban design and infrastructure. He also has a skilled background in 3D modelling, renders and video simulations, and graphic design. James is a workaholic who volunteers time to the NZILA and VUW. He enjoys adventurous travel and making art in his spare time.

Jason Barnes

Jason Barnes.

BAS, MArch Prof. (Hons)

Intermediate Architectural Graduate

Wellington Studio   

‘This photo you see me in is taken on the City-To-Sea Bridge in Wellington,’ says Intermediate Architectural Graduate Jason Barnes. ‘I like the metaphor of a bridge because it links places. Besides I walk that way to work and I often take time out to look at the ocean —observe— take time to take things in.’

A time-traveller’s interest in his surroundings led the newly qualified Jason to trek the Himalayas, complete a natural building internship whereby he built dormitories out of mud. Undertake permaculture courses, yoga, meditation, Ashrams around India and Nepal. Winding up in Japan.

‘Resilience In Pacific Islands In The Face Of Climate Change’ was Jason’s thesis. ‘It was about looking to nature for inspiration but using architectural principles to support ecological systems. For example aquaponics (like hydroponics) uses fish waste to grow plants. Caves in the Indoway Islands could potentially be oscillating weather columns which generate power and coconut oil is feasible a renewable alternative to fuel.’

He also advocates densely occupied skyscrapers could contain vertical farming. Because you don’t need land or daylight to grow plants. You can do that artificially. ‘There’s different directions for sustainable design. This is but one example of bridging the basics with technology,’ Jason explains.

‘If you have a sizable budget you might just go for the most advanced technology and put in a whole lot of solar panels rather than consider design principles which can do the same thing whilst utilising less resources. Simplifying ideas so they become infinitely integrated into a building’s design. Think orientation, materiality, day-lighting, passive ventilation.’

Jia Ying-Hew

Jia Ying-Hew.

MArch (Prof)

Intermediate Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

Hew works largely on residential housing projects including terrace housing and apartments. She has a specific interest in how the integration of architecture and landscape design can encourage meaningful interaction between people and improve neighbourhood quality.

Hew has a strong interest in painting and hand crafting. She is passionate about how art and design can improve society and quality of life.

Jotaro Tokunaga

Jotaro Tokunaga.

MLA, BA LA

Senior Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Jo is a landscape architect from the UK, with a broad range of experience including streets, sports, residential & campus regeneration.
His approach to design is informed by the clash of Culture & Nature, and works to incorporate local narratives, human experience & the distinctiveness of a site. This is all underpinned by an extensive knowledge of precedent schemes and a curiosity of the built environment as an artform.
He enjoys working at all stages of a delivery project, from finding that big conceptual idea at its inception, down through to checking the last built detail on-site and making sure that both clients and users are delighted with places which grow and mature – all with a broader aim to tackle the modern challenges facing our cities.

Jo is an explorer and is as happy getting outdoors travelling or on his bike as he is getting stuck into the grit of the city – finding the next show, cafe/bar or indeed a new piece of the landscape puzzle.

Kamelia Haydon

Kamelia Haydon.

BArch, MUrbDes (Hon), NZRAB Registered Architect

Associate Urban Designer

Auckland Studio   

Kamelia is an Urban Designer and Registered Architect with over ten years’ experience in the industry, predominately based Auckland and Melbourne. She has worked on large scale projects like Auckland’s City Rail Link and Arts Centre Melbourne, as well as residential masterplanning and is passionate about the delivery of community regeneration projects.

Her belief that design and development are interconnected, and integral to creating a better built environment, has led to her involvement in both the NZIA and Property Council.

Projects Kamelia Haydon has worked on:

Kate Walker

Kate Walker.

BArch, MArch (Prof.) Dist

Intermediate Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

‘The scrappiness of those initial ideas in any project and developing them into something fully fledged — that process appeals to me,’ says Kate, ‘how you grab ideas and create a culture of a place that’s unique.

Fostering community and connection to place is the Intermediate Architect’s raison d’être. ‘Architecture is about providing the space for interactions to occur — whether with other people, or place and it’s spirit.

‘You don’t necessarily need highly polished materials or expensive fitouts to do that — it can be simpler. Working with the quirks of existing structures. Reusing what you can. Curating and caring about the details. My grandmother lived in a house made of mud and sticks. A thatched cottage. And for me it epitomises beauty and longevity.’

‘I feel the architect’s role is about orchestration. You think about all the people involved, from business owners to visitors, to the dishwasher. What does each need?’

‘Often we need to first talk about hospitality. How we welcome people, how we care for those in the space. We have to talk about things like that before we talk about architecture. Be it an airport, shop, or a new housing block.’

‘Te Aranga —Māori design principles— to my mind talk about that in the widest possible way. Traditionally the architect is seen as looking after the bricks and mortar. But to do that well, you have to have conversations about the experience. Then you can translate that into form and material.’

Linda Sun

Linda Sun.

BAS M.Arch (Prof Hons), ANZIA

Senior Architect

Auckland Studio   

With a range of project experience in different areas and phases, Linda is passionate about working with people to create and deliver spaces that enhance the amenity and experience of the occupants and the community. She is also interested in issues around sustainability and environmental regeneration and is part of NZIA’s Auckland Branch, leading the Environmental Portfolio.

Lisa Rimmer

Lisa Rimmer.

BHortSc (Hons) MLA (Hons)

Principal Landscape architect

Wellington Studio    Studio Management   

Alongside her landscape architectural practice, Lisa’s background in horticultural science and education has informed her specialist expertise in strategic planning projects that integrate environmental planning and RMA processes with detailed design.  She has worked on a wide range of projects including large scale infrastructure, public and civic facilities and commercial developments. Lisa has strengths in project management, leadership and team communication, as well as contract documentation and planting design, especially for complex urban sites.

Lydia Franken

Lydia Franken.

BDes (Hons), BCA

Intermediate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

‘In a design office you are never an island,’ Lydia says, ‘you are always connecting with people even if they are not working on the same project. Just being able to bounce ideas off each other is very valuable. It’s a lost resource if you don’t talk to your colleagues, ask questions. A sense of enquiry is very important to getting a better design. 

‘Listening skills are key when you are designing. Though what people say is not always what they mean! So you have to figure out what the real problem is. They might say —We need more carparks— But perhaps the space is not working correctly or maybe there is another mode of transport?’ She says she likes to dig to understand the bigger picture.

In Lydia’s seven years overseas she grew accustomed to working across divergent cultures. In the Dutch design studio West 8 there were 12 different nationalities.

Communicating with clients depends on you understanding who they are Lydia says, ‘For example in the school engagement we are doing for Otahuhu, we have to figure out the best activities to canvas the students’ thoughts.’ Her background in business development, public relations and marketing for landscape firms are often referenced. Not so much visually, but in terms of negotiating. 

Lydia’s work within the design team means she gets to work on planting plans or palettes whenever the opportunity presents, ‘Of course it depends on the project but it’s quite nice to bring in colour. These splashes of fragrance or texture. Every plant can add something. It’s kind of like painting. I really like the lushness of tropical palettes. And scented and edible as well!’

Lydia has honours in a Bachelor of Design in Landscape Architecture  and a Bachelor of Commerce & Administration in Marketing & Management.

Matt Jones

Matt Jones.

BLA, NZILA (Registered)

Associate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio    Studio Management   

Matthew is a highly motivated landscape architect with particular expertise in the integration of design, planning and management. He is a skilled design planner, working across the disciplines of landscape architecture, masterplanning and urban design. Matthew has a strong appreciation for the relationship between people and their surrounding environment and developing design outcomes that engage and enhance this notion.

Matthew is passionate about urbanism with a particular interest in the design and integration of mode-share in urban environments. He is currently a member of Auckland Council’s Urban Design Panel. Matt is a self-proclaimed sports fan and is multi-genre music obsessed. 

Megan Otto

Megan Otto.

BFA, currently studying Diploma of Interior Design (after hours)

Studio Concierge

Auckland Studio   

Megan has mainly worked in administration. If you ever need helping finding the Isthmus building and our visitor car parks, please call her. And when you arrive she’s on hand to offer you any number of herbal teas, coffee, juices, mineral water – still or sparkling, (you get the picture)…just ask!

Michael Chu

Michael Chu.

MLA (Grad NZILA)

Intermediate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Michael has worked extensively on suburban regeneration projects, preparing comprehensive landscape packages from concept through to detailed design. He is interested in how people occupy and experience space with his passion for hand rendering present in the work he produces.

When he isn’t sketching or listening to music, Michael enjoys exploring Auckland’s diverse eateries.

Projects Michael Chu has worked on:

Mihali Katsougiannis

Mihali Katsougiannis.

BAS, MLA, NZILA Grad

Graduate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

As part of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, Greece and Turkey uprooted two million people in a massive population exchange. On both sides residents were told to get out. Slippers were on the doorstep and food on the table. The men kept their house keys because they were so sure of being allowed back home.

Resultantly abandoned Greek village of Kayaköy in Turkey is now preserved. Intermediate Landscape designer Mihali says this ghost town is as important as Disneyland.

‘The point is learning from the past. Because stories can be so easily lost to history. Which is why we engage with mana whenua because they have a heritage which they can tell. There’s a responsibility for designers to bring history to life. So stories don’t get forgotten.’

‘It’s happening wherever we engage with mana whenua. Because they are specific sponsors to their land and what took place.

‘There’s all sorts of ways to translate this into landscape design. For example we have a process of engaging with iwi artists to integrate cultural expression into new constructs, stuff that has meaning. Which translates into the modern world from the historic past.’

‘My Greek heritage gives me an appreciation for other cultures. I know that is important to me, so naturally ethnicity will be important to others too. But on another level, we are all human. We need to look after one another regardless of our ancestral past,’ Mihali smiles wryly. ‘You identify with a culture but at the same time it might build borders. Beliefs that make up a person can cause separation. Depends on how you approach it. It’s about being open to cultural beliefs.’

Projects Mihali Katsougiannis has worked on:

Nada Stanish

Nada Stanish.

BFA, BLA (Hons)

Associate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

‘NZ  is the whaka we’re in. We’re going to be going forward in this whaka so we have to pretend it’s sole vessel,’ Associate Designer Nada reflects. ‘If you lived in the US wouldn’t call it a whaka would you?’ Admittedly the home of Barack Obama is not the seafaring nation Aotearoa is.

For the team redesigning the Auckland waterfront, the project began by acknowledging it was the edge of the land and water says Nada, ‘The Maori side of that was; the moment —breath— between the low & high tide.

‘Ferry basin has been designed to the extreme — but not in an overt way, you still must figure out what things are. The nets, the seating, structures, handrails, everything is highly designed. They tell the story of a marine landscape which many of us don’t get first-hand experience of in that location, the city.’

Seeking the experiential element Nada always goes to site no matter the project, ‘For example how to treat a historic site it is different to a ‘brown field’ with nothing on it and it’s going to be developed. In which case you would research what has been there in the past. Usually there’s something that has been erased. I like to contextualise the place and that gives you the design framework.’

In the Mangawhau (Mt.Eden) project where boardwalks are going in around the volcanic cone, the client stipulated the expression of place was more important than the design of the pathways. ‘It’s more that you are going there to encounter the Maungawhau, not wow neat design,’ says Nada, ‘I really like that because I keep having to pull back. I think when you put less there it’s more suggestive.’

Nick Kapica

Nick Kapica.

BA Hons, MDes

Principal

Auckland Studio    Wellington Studio    Studio Management   

Nick originates from London where he studied Visual Communication at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. He is passionate about people, design and the urban environment. After working as a designer for The Independent, he moved in 1989 to Berlin, founded SV Associates, and evolved his work from visual communication to experience design with a strongly human-centred focus. In 2009 he moved to Wellington, New Zealand to be Senior Lecturer in Design at Massey University. As a design researcher, he operates 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 Design Lead responsible for brand experience and pushing ‘design as a process’ deeper into council structures. Nick has collaborated with Atelier Brückner on Scenographic projects and Athfield Architects on workplace and experiential graphic design projects.

Urbanist, designer, kitesurfer, and educator, Nick is happiest when he can bring different people together to build diverse teams that try to understand complex problems and search for unexpected solutions.

Nick Pearson

Nick Pearson.

BLA, NZILA (Registered)

Senior Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Nick works mostly at the detailed design and contract administration end of projects, spending nearly half his time in a hi viz and hard hat on site.

Off duty Nick is a keen musician, sports watcher and DIY plodder.

Projects Nick Pearson has worked on:

Nikki Peck

Nikki Peck.

PGDipBus - Human Resources, RCoN

People and Development

Auckland Studio   

With 20 years experience Nikki is a well respected and sought after human resource practitioner. People and Culture is at the core of Nikki’s focus at Isthmus and she builds the heart of our place by genuinely engaging with our people. With a ready smile Nikki contributes to improving business function, builds strong high trust relationships, and provides clear, concise advice, coaching and direction.

Oriane Merindol

Oriane Merindol.

M.Arch/Architecte D.E

Intermediate Urban Designer/Architect

Auckland Studio   

Oriane studied Architecture and Urban Design in France and in Italy, then worked with Gehl Architects in Denmark, she joined Isthmus in November 2016.

Oriane is interested in designing cities and neighbourhoods in a more sustainable way that promotes social equity. She has been mostly working on masterplanning projects, with a specific focus on creating walk-able places where everyone feels welcome. Oriane is an unconditional walker, loving to explore new places and countries, going everywhere on foot!

Projects Oriane Merindol has worked on:

Paulo Costa

Paulo Costa.

BArch (Hons), ANZIA, MAA (Denmark)

Associate Architect

Auckland Studio    Studio Management   

Paulo, originally from Mozambique, studied Architecture in Wellington and moved back to Auckland a couple of years ago following a 12 year stint in the UK. His experience in the UK focused on urban regeneration and adaptive re-use, working on several mixed use residential developments, with forays into the arts and education sectors along the way.

Paulo combines a passion for designing space with a strong interest in ‘place making’ and a rigorous appreciation of context and takes a collaborative approach to developing ideas from concept level to the end detail.

Outside of the office, when not drawing, you’ll find him cycling or exploring Auckland with family or binging on all things Scandinavian: be it film, furniture or design.

Penny McIntyre

Penny McIntyre.

NCB, NDA

Chief Operating Officer

Auckland Studio    Studio Management   

As a qualified Accountant, Penny is a valued and trusted member of the senior management team, who brings a wealth of experience and knowledge as well as a cracking good sense of humour!  Penny works collaboratively across Isthmus providing clear financial direction, analysis, process improvements as well as ad hoc projects helping to ensure that our business objectives are met.
Outside of the busy working week, Penny spends quality time with friends and family sharing great yarns whilst fishing, walking, pilates and a good glass of chardonnay!

Ralph Johns

Ralph Johns.

BSc MA, FNZILA Registered

CEO

Wellington Studio    Board Members    Studio Management   

Ralph takes care of the business; he leads the strategic direction of isthmus.

As a landscape architect Ralph has won a number of industry awards. He was the driving force behind the Isthmus book, Coast Country Neighbourhood City. As Isthmus’ design-led CEO since 2014, Ralph has led the practice through a period of rapid growth. Ralph ensures that Isthmus stays grounded, committed to purpose, and keeps an eye firmly fixed on the horizon.

Ralph lives in Wellington, works in Auckland and rides a bicycle whenever he can.

Rose Armstrong

Rose Armstrong.

Senior Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Rose has wide-ranging experience as a Landscape Architect, having worked as a sole practitioner for approximately 15 years. Her work has comprised landscape assessment and assessment of effects from proposed developments, large-scale landscape planning, site planning and concept design, detailed design and documentation, and contract administration.

Rose equally enjoys pulling together a planting plan, or working at a strategic design-planning level. At Isthmus she is part of the context team, and joined us in May 2018. At the weekends Rose is likely to be found in the garden or at the beach.

Ryan Fothergill

Ryan Fothergill.

Senior Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

There’s a lot of green in Ryan’s photo and it’s no accident. The Senior Architectural Graduate thinks getting into the outdoors is bonza, ‘Love those little DOC buildings. Taking random trails and camping in the middle of nowhere in one of those huts. Yeah, I love getting into nature.’

Ergo it’s no surprise to hear if Ryan could be the architect of anything … ‘Hah! After working here I’d be a landscape architect! They get to do fun stuff. Cool diagrams, going to site, talking to the public.’ His first foray into working alongside a landscape architect is on the inter-regional coach terminals brief, ‘There’s fabrication, heritage and budgetary constraints. Which is another thing I find interesting. Figuring out how to make something awesome while taking into account the restraints.’ He adds with a grin, ‘If you had free reign it wouldn’t be hard would it?’

Naturally this is more a piece of cake when you have both a drafting diploma and a degree in architecture as Ryan does. Using this training he travelled around Europe working in different practices, ‘I’d see buildings I’d learnt about in uni. It was like seeing rock stars! Then I’d discover Oh that door doesn’t actually work that well. That’s good. It’s not as perfect as that!’

‘Design should be for everybody. It shouldn’t be just for the elite. Which is a bit of a problem now. If you are a good architect you should be able to design something simply and cheaply.’

‘How architecture can add to a person’s experience is more inspirational to me than a standout building. Inside a children’s hospital in Melbourne there’s an aquarium that goes up two levels. I could imagine as a sick kid you see this that would really take away from what you are going through.’

Salva Shah

Salva Shah.

MArch (Prof)

Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

Salva joined Isthmus in early June 2018. She brings with her the wealth of her experiences in her travels to different parts of the world and the architectural research she has undertaken at the University of Auckland. For her thesis she investigated the intricacies of the intimate space we call home and how a new domestic architecture can sculpt culturally mobile homes and identities in our increasingly globalized world. Other than architecture, she is very passionate about teaching and education. She has not only tutored university and high school students, but in the weekends, she also teaches the migrant and refugee students in her community.

Sarah Bishop

Sarah Bishop.

CMLI (UK), BLA (Hons), BBSc

Principal Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio    Board Members   

Sarah is a Landscape Architect and Urban Designer with over ten years’ professional experience gained in the UK and here at home in New Zealand. She has expertise in a broad range of projects types from strategy and masterplanning, to the design conceptualisation and development, through to preparation of construction documentation. Sarah can move from large scale complex masterplans to intricate spaces that knit into urban fabric, to natural elemental environments – bringing the same level of design sensitivity, clarity and refinement.

Recent projects have included masterplanning for urban centres and coastal environments; the design and delivery of public parks, plazas and streetscapes. She works collaboratively with public and private sector clients, stakeholder and community groups to deliver high quality outcomes loved by their communities.

Sarah’s interest in urban renewal projects, particularly where the land meets the sea is informed by a fascination with maps and their language of how our towns and cities evolve.

.

Scott McKerrow

Scott McKerrow.

BAS, MArch Prof. (Hons) NZDAT, NZIA Registered Architect

Associate Architect

Wellington Studio   

‘I’d like not to be an architect,’ says Scott. ‘Rather a design thinker who applies that process to any problem. It is about moving away from discipline labels such as an architect or landscape architect to; here is a design problem: how do we solve this? So that I can apply my skill set to any perplexity.’ For example Scott is currently part of an urban design team that is concepting a bridge. Although Scott iterates, ‘It is not about a project more the process.’

Fittingly people have described Scott as a ‘generalist’ in the five or six primary phases of architecture. Likewise project types from residential, petrol stations, commercial interior fit-outs to landscapes and transportation projects. ‘I specialise in people at the front and back end of a project — engage with the people using the space.’

Scott explains he likes people to feel comfortable so they give their opinions, ‘It’s inconsequential whose idea is better. Just as long as we can generate a discussion with the project caretaker and arrive at a universal solution.’

The overarching theme continues in Scott’s own life. He works in Wellington but lives in Christchurch. He hails from Tauranga, while his whanau are from the East Coast, ‘I’m all over the place,’ he says. ‘I’d like my heritage to influence my work more but I understand we’re still in a society which is predominantly European. Hearing waiata inside an office place as you do at Isthmus is unique. Mind you it is not ‘my’ culture. But everybodys’ culture. We should be sharing stories about all cultures and celebrating these.’

Scott is an Associate Architect, BAS, MArch Prof. (Hons) NZDAT, NZIA Registered Architect.

Scott Wigglesworth

Scott Wigglesworth.

Senior Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

People are like —Have you done this before?— or —Have you done this on another project?— I’ve always got to say, —No—. Because nothing is ever the same.’

The awarded Senior Landscape Designer says, ‘I enjoy breaking the mould. It is not just another sub-division somewhere. It’s a subdivision here which is different to anywhere else, so the approach also needs to be fresh.’

Scott follows all the ‘rabbit holes’ he can to chase an idea. What’s under the ground can be a starting point, ‘You can kind of tell that from geology and mapping of pre-European forests what the endemic forest species looked like. Then you can choose your plants from that particular forest mix. We are doing this in a few projects. The tricky thing is finding bush species that will grow well in a constructed landscape context.

‘Successional planting’ helps us replicate nature’s ecosystem better. We’ll come back in the second and third year after the contract is finished,’ says Scott. ‘And plant in the gaps. This enables us to plant rare or hard to grow species which require shelter. Protection is provided by species planted in the first year. Successional plants naturalise an artificially created landscape. And we specify this in the works programme from get-go. It hasn’t been tested too much. We’re exploring the possibilities.’

Sean Burke

Sean Burke.

BSc, BLA (Hons), NZILA (Registered)

Principal Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio    Studio Management   

Sean has two decades of experience in a range of landscape architectural work predominantly associated with infrastructure and the coastal edge.

Sean combines strategic thinking with core design skills underpinned by an ability to understand the natural and people context. A champion of the holistic view and noted keeper of overall project design visions, Sean offers a collaborative approach integrating the needs of many across a variety of procurement models.

Sean has a passion for well thought through design that advances the conversation of place, identity and human experience, yet goes beyond the visual to engage with the dynamics of the natural world in a meaningful proactive manner.

Sean Eustace

Sean Eustace.

BLA (Hons)

Graduate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

‘I can see how landscape architecture can bring value to the world’s most challenging problems. Particularly environmental and social (that’s what’s led me here to Isthmus),’ says Lincoln University graduate Sean.

Sean’s 2019 final year design project analysed the harm caused by wildfires, ‘It’s an issue that NZ has the power to do something about now, before it gets really bad.

‘I started by thinking about it board scale. Refining it down and thinking about the factors that contribute to wildfires; where people live, types of plants and how flammable they are, where cars go, even climate change.

 ‘A lot of the area burnt by the 2017 Christchurch Port Hills wildfires was pine forestry and that’s an issue because pine burns well. The prevalent gorse there exacerbates the problem because it is flammable. Plus it grows back fast after a fire so it becomes self-perpetuating.

‘On the other hand I looked at how gorse could be used as a nurse crop; which would provide cover for lower flammability species such as New Zealand natives until they became established.

‘And as the native trees grew above the gorse their shade would kill the sun reliant gorse. It’s really cool to see the power of natural processes. There are ways to work with nature rather than against it.

‘As part of my wildfire prevention research I went and talked to a landowner who lived near to the fires (naturally he was interested in this topic too). He suggested sheep grazing could be used more extensively in the hills to keep the grass short so it would burn less. I found it thought-provoking to talk to people who live there.’

Simon Button

Simon Button.

Ba(Hons), MA

Senior Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

A five-hour drive on foreign roads to take photos of a site under review is just another day in the life of Landscape Designer Simon. Travelling through New Zealand is candy to a kid.

‘Landscape and visual assessments are what I write. They can include urban design assessments or character studies,’ says Simon. ‘When a project is “landscape led” a design team/planner may bring me in as an advisor to create a report on how the design might work with the landscape. Until you have ‘planning’ you don’t have anything. The design is great but let’s get that resource consent. 

‘If you are working on a development and next door is a retirement home hypothetically landscape mitigation could be on the table. A big row of trees or 5 metre buffer to provide an air of amenity. Or it could be an ecological response for endangered animals. In the UK some species of bats are endangered so we might specify what we call —dark corridors—. A big area of trees with high canopies to simulate a bat habitat. There can be every type of constraint for a development. Part of my job is to look at a site, find the problems and solve them.

‘Structures can and do work with the landscape. But part of my role is to make sure developments work seamlessly with the existing environment. It’s not always necessarily about hiding a development. Sometimes it might be the opposite, making a feature of it.

‘People didn’t want wind turbines originally because they were —eyesores—. But now many people regard wind turbines positively now. It’s a green energy and people even call them —architectural—. Opinions change over time.’

Simon is a Senior Landscape Designer with Ba (Hons), MA

Simon Nicholson

Simon Nicholson.

BBus. Accounting & Finance

Intermediate Accountant

Auckland Studio   

You might not expect an accountant to say the best thing about his job is ‘the people’. But Simon does. ‘Because your job affects everyone. At some stage you get to work with everyone in-house and out. Because you’re paying their salaries and bills.’ Not to mention scoping out fees, estimates, basically keeping accounts clean.

Whereas a chartered accountant would just deal with numbers, Simon looks past these into non-financial areas for explanations about the results. He analyses the month to month status of jobs and helps manage projects from a numerical point of view.

‘Quite often I am looking at quite a lot of information at any one time,’ he says, ‘and I am able to pick out any little anomalies and see trends in information which create forecasts for the future’. If there was such a thing as applause on a page he says with a grin, he would insert it here. 

Equally observant about his locality Simon says, ‘You know, you go down the street and all you see is these dead-end driveways. There doesn’t need to be that much concrete. Surely you could have even have a dirt path for your car. Cities like San Francisco are just walls and walls of buildings. Albeit a little patch of green on the sidewalk.

‘However Whitianga (in the Coromandel) is greener, the air is nicer. You have a little footpath and a big pile of green next to it which you can walk on as well so in summer when it’s too hot you don’t burn your feet.’

Simon has a double degree from AUT, a Bachelor of Business in Accounting & Finance. 

Sophie Ebdale

Sophie Ebdale.

Studio Concierge

Auckland Studio   

Sophie’s job lies in the land where two tribes meet; analytical and creative. Part of the Studio Concierge team in the Auckland studio, Sophie assists the designers, business operations and visitors, ‘It is the perfect balance of methodical analysis and creativity,’ she says.

Her days are complexity busting. Because they might range from administering Health and Safety, navigating Isthmus’ Enviro-mark certification, processing library books to running up graphics for a studio meeting. 

Sophie says in her eyes streamlining information makes for better communication. ‘I use spreadsheets so data is laid out in an orderly fashion and therefore easier to absorb. Graphic skills are the other side of my personality. Though I still like to put together visual info in a methodical way.’ 

With a penchant for the visual world, Sophie has a 3 year Diploma in Interior Design from Unitec. She says if she could give Auckland a reno it would be ‘more accessible transport-wise with the CBD being a bit more appealing for leisure.’

Sophie Fisher

Sophie Fisher.

MSc

Intermediate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Sophie has predominantly supported the design team in delivering the Schools PPP3 project and is especially interested in developing these engaging designs in response to strong cultural narratives.  

Having moved to New Zealand from the UK, Sophie enjoys spending time outdoors, exploring the diversity of Auckland culture and its wider landscape.

Sophie Jacques

Sophie Jacques.

Bdes, Larch (Hons)

Senior Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Sophie works broadly across a range of projects, from inception through to detailed design. A specialist in construction management she has taken this role on a number of complex projects including the Children’s Garden, Wellington Zoo and currently working on the delivery of North Kumutoto on Wellington’s Waterfront. Sophie is particularly interested in community based projects and inter-generational spaces that take place within the urban framework. Sophie enjoys creating places that have a direct impact on how people (and animals!) live. You’ll find Sophie taking photos of people and landscapes, most likely powering up a mountain somewhere on Wellington’s ridgeline.

Stefanie Graze

Stefanie Graze.

B.Eng. Landscape Architecture, M.Sc. Urban Design

Senior Urban Designer

Auckland Studio   

Stefanie is a landscape architect and urban designer from Germany. She has overall eight years experience in landscape design, urban research and co-creation projects. She strongly believes that good projects develop out of the space itself, this is why she likes to integrate field studies into the work process. She specializes in exploring, analyzing and developing strategies and concepts for strong neighbourhoods.

Stefanie can be found hiking in nature, discovering New Zealand or learning how to play her synthesizer.

Tayler Matthews

Tayler Matthews.

B.Arch, MUrbDes

Graduate Urban Designer

Auckland Studio   

Tayler recently joined Isthmus as a Graduate Urban Designer having completed a Bachelor of Architecture at Victoria University and a Master’s in Urban Design at Auckland University. Over the past few years she has been living in London and exploring Europe.

She has a particular interest in urban regeneration projects, which was the central idea behind her final university dissertation. She finds the process of uncovering opportunities in existing urban environments not meeting their full potential and making design decisions to benefit communities a rewarding challenge.

Outside of work Tayler enjoys playing club netball and eating her way around Auckland’s delicious food spots.

Tessa Bradbury

Tessa Bradbury.

MLA

Graduate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Tessa has worked with Isthmus since November 2018 after graduating from the University of Western Australia. During her studies, Tessa gained 18 months of professional experience in Perth, working on a range of projects, diverse in their scale and level of detail. With a focus on master planning for waterfront management and mixed-used residential development. Tessa’s thesis topic, ‘The Future of Private Open Space – Adapting to Density’ reflects her interests in a forward-thinking design approach to landscape architecture and its ability to aid global issue around population pressures and climate change.

Tessa Macphail

Tessa Macphail.

BDes(LADN)(Hons), NatCertHort(L2), NZILA (Registered)

Senior Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Tessa leads projects with a collaborative approach and a keen eye for detail. She is passionate about considered, community-led design outcomes which enhance the lives of those that use and inhabit them, and celebrate the identity, character and narratives of that place. Her diverse experience includes parks, playspaces, civic spaces, streetscapes, urban regeneration, waterways, comprehensive urban planting proposals, and large scale infrastructure projects. Many of these have been complex, long-term projects starting with a conceptual masterplan, design framework or strategy.

Out of office hours you will find her exploring the beaches, bush walks and playspaces of the Wellington Region with her young family.

Projects Tessa Macphail has worked on:

Tim Cook

Tim Cook.

MLA (Merit), BDesn (Hons)

Senior Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Tim has professional experience in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom and brings a strong skill set of project management, design and documentation across all phases.

His experience encompasses a wide range of projects; including citywide masterplans, parks, streetscapes, multi-residential and mixed-use developments, transport infrastructure, cultural landscapes and playspaces.

Outside work, Tim likes to keep active and enjoys making the most of the Wellington region’s running and hiking trails.

Tim Watts

Tim Watts.

MA Urban Design, B.Planning, BA Town & Country Planning

Principal - Urban Design

Auckland Studio   

Tim joined Isthmus in February 2019 to support Isthmus’s expanding portfolio of urban development work. As a chartered planner (MRTPI) and qualified urban designer he has built up a strong track record of delivering complex transformation projects including large scale residential and town centre masterplans, city block redevelopments, transit-oriented developments and public realm upgrades.

Travis McGee

Travis McGee.

MLA, BAS (Land), NZILA (reg)

Senior Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Travis designs public spaces, large and small scale parks, subdivision planning, sports facilities, walkways and cycleways, skate parks and education. He predominately focuses in the design of schools where he leads the concepts through to the construction.

Travis’ passion lies within the natural environment and the ecological processes that are integral to landscape architectural design. This originates from growing up in the rural North Island where he developed a strong connection to land and the outdoors. His thesis, titled Catalysts for Environmentalism, was developed around public relationships with the natural environment and used Landscape Architecture to develop links between natural and urban environments as a means of reconnecting residents to their local river systems.

Travis Wooller

Travis Wooller.

BLA, NZILA (Registered)

Associate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Ever the perfectionist, Travis thrives on detail.  Over 11 years of construction administration and overseeing landscape builds in the urban environment have provided for a solid design ethos that enables him to convert clients aspirations, concepts and desired outcomes into a solid reality.
Travis firmly believes that listening is designing too, and meaningful input by the end user and client is key to a projects success. With his extensive experience designing, managing and delivering streets, plazas, large scale parks, sport infrastructure, and skate parks, Travis has proven to be a safe pair of hands to carry complex and technical projects through to the last detail.

Vamshi Puppala

Vamshi Puppala.

BBus. Accounting

Accounts Assistant

Auckland Studio   

‘In India you grow up learning times tables before you start speaking,’ says Vamshi. ‘When you start speaking, you start studying!’  The legacy of a gruelling education for Vamshi has been a career in numbers.

Vamshi says his Assistant Accountant role at Isthmus includes standard accounting, profit analysis, debt collection. 

‘I get a kick out of investigating things compared to standard maths,’ Vamshi. Unlike previous accountancy roles for companies selling goods Vamshi says he’s now learning about services, ‘Where people, their time, ideas are money. 

‘Seeing something cool intrigues me. How people’s minds work! Talking to the designers I can see how their brain is a lot more creative. When I go for walks and see creative landscapes, ornaments, even architecture. I sometimes wish I had the brain to design that.’

‘And I like the fact that Isthmus focuses on people while maintaining the integrity of the business says Vamshi. It is the sum total of my own values. As someone coming from another background —lived in India half my life— I can relate to Isthmus’ principles of land, culture and people

‘There’s a billion people in India and no traffic rules! Well there are but people don’t often follow them. Just recently I was staying in an area where there were big five or ten story private residences. Then 100 meters down the road it was a slum! It grounded me to see how much of a contrast there can be.’

Wade Lipsham

Wade Lipsham.

BLA(Hons)

Senior Landscape Architect

Wellington Studio   

Wade experienced a 10 year hiatus from Landscape Architecture, where he was involved in Business and management. He brings these new skill sets with him and applies it to practice.

Wade’s background is in High-end Residential developments and his passion and expertise lies in concept design and masterplanning. Wade has an ability to offer creative and artistic solutions to any design problem brief.

He also has a great love and sound knowledge of native plants and their positive ecological contribution to the wider New Zealand Landscape.

Projects Wade Lipsham has worked on:

William Brooks

William Brooks.

BAS, M.Arch (Prof)

Intermediate Architectural Graduate

Auckland Studio   

William joined Isthmus in early July 2018, after gaining several years experience in Auckland practices. He brings with him a wide range of concept design experience from the commercial, tertiary and residential sectors. He is particularly interested in exploring intertwining the realms of home and work to re-engage community to the city.

Outside work, Will has a strong interest in craft and making with his hands. On weekends he enjoys exploring what Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer, visiting the Avondale Markets, walking at One Tree Hill or going to a show in town

 

Zach Barker

Zach Barker.

BLA (Hons)

Intermediate Landscape Architect

Auckland Studio   

Zach began with Isthmus mid-September 2018, a dual Kiwi and American citizen, Zach has a passion and curiosity about the social dynamics of urban spaces, material systems and landscape infrastructure. Zach aspires to create innovative and sustainable landscapes in both countries. In his spare time Zach enjoys tramping with his partner Maddie and K9 Shackleton. While in Auckland Zach hopes to play social rugby, get involved in coaching and learn to sail.

Past Team Members

Garth Falconer, Mike Jones, Helen Ballinger, Nicola Williams, Richard Hart, Tim Fitzpatrick, Simon Rackham, Philip Henderson, Jeremy Cooke, Anna Bolton Riley, Laura Andrews, Lisa Atkinson, Catherine Alington, Katie Banks, Nik Kneale, Justin Morey, Jane Gilmour, Kara Maresca, Nat Lawrence, Lee Brazier, Guy Protheroe, Nicola Charles, Yoko Tanaka, Joanna Soanes, Fraser Miller, Allen Nicholson,Tanisha McGinpie, Orson Waldock, Francois Vienne, Iryna Prokopchuk, Nina Harrison, Alan Gray, Kristy Haliday, Margaret Poppelwell, Rui Seguchi, Maree Garnett, Peter Wilson, Kent Potter, Linda Kerkmeester, Evan Williams, Jeremy Wilks, Fabian Low, Bridget Murdoch, Paul Browne, Sophie Schmeltz, Esther Hjelstrom, James Bentley, Rochelle Adams, Abbie Baumgart, Charlotte Grant, Claire Macky, Simon Bogalo, Danbi Park, Sean Leogreen, Jamie Johnson, Shonagh Lindsay, Kaye Reihana, Paul Roper Gee, Nicola Rees, Nigel Parker, Wade Robertson, Rebecca Hughes, Grace He, Sarah Baumann, Sarah Finlayson, Adrian Taylor, Emma Golightly, Scot Bathgate, Kent Lundberg, Kirstin Johnson, George Woolford, Jade McFarlane, Hoa Luu, Kylie Agraval, Liz Clarke, Tabitha McGinty, Fiona Nightingale, Rachael Annan, Nathan Young, Sandeep Cyril, Hanna O’Donoghue, Rosie Allen, Katrina Kidson, Wendi Nicoll, Liz Plank, Sue McManaway, Jess Lam, Kristyn Aldridge, Bernard Wind, Catherine Wilson, Daniel Yang, Ellen Aronsson-Jones, Matt Peacocke, Annette Allwood, Karen Ehlers, Paggy Shen, Alfred Chan, Gabrielle Free, Matt Faulk, Jimmy Zhuang, David Gregory, Stephen Bay, Rewi Thompson, Dean O’Donnell, Taylor Davis, Maria Bergvall, Ella Tisdall, Mark Radford, Sarah Poff, Sarah Al-Anbuky, Dan Males, Alistair Luke, Julia Wick, Rhonda Corbett, James Ure, Stefan Beconcini, Dion Mortensen, Adelle Hammond, Greta Christensen, Marcus Richardson, Suchita Jain, Jordyn Hesketh, Francis Pierard, Rebecca Jerram, John Broadbent, Mark Sayegh, Charlotte Warren, Natasha Whitlock, Earl Rutherford, Marita Hunt, Sam Irvine, Emma Davis, Michael Morgan, Duncan Ecob, Bruce McKenzie, Sam Gwynn, Chris Combrink, Scott Donnell.