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.’

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.

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:

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:

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.

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.’

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.

Nick Kapica

Nick Kapica.

BA Hons, MDes

Principal

Auckland Studio    Wellington Studio    Studio Management    Pandemic 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.

Ralph Johns

Ralph Johns.

BSc MA, FNZILA Registered

CEO

Wellington Studio    Board Members    Studio Management    Pandemic 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.

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.

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.

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.

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: