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We think Matariki should be a national Holiday

Isthmus first acknowledged Matariki in 2008 with a small after-work gathering with take-away hangi. It has grown in subsequent years to become a key feature of our studio culture. We deepened our collective engagement with mātauranga māori in 2010 when we introduced Matariki Day, an extra day of annual leave for all staff, with a dinner hosted in the studio for the whole team and their whanau.

We embedded Matariki as an additional ‘public holiday’ because we believe that Aotearoa should celebrate its own authentic events and seasons. We joined the call for Matariki to become an official holiday, a call which is becoming louder each year. As the collective momentum builds, so does our own; this year we are embracing Matariki more fully than ever, with a ‘festival’ of hikoi, talks and events that connect us with community, culture and place, as well as the day of itself.

There is an ancient logic in marking the transition from one year to the next by the maximum tilt of the earth, our furthest distance from the sun. As the planet tips away from the sun during mid-winter in Aotearoa a cluster of stars disappears beyond the horizon in April/May and rises back into view again in June/July. Matariki is the name given to the star cluster, and its rising is celebrated as the start of the new season of growth.

Hosting a Matariki dinner at each of our studios gives us a chance to appreciate the commitment and contribution that all of our staff have made over the past year and – importantly – to acknowledge their partners and families for the vital supporting role that they play in the success of our studio. We remember those who have passed away and celebrate new life. Most of all it is simply a time to be present, share kai, enjoy each other’s company and deepen the strong relationships that we have with each other.

Our Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch studios will be closed on Friday 24 July.

Te Ara Awataha. Northcote Greenway.

The Path of the Awataha

Te Ara Awataha is Northcote’s new greenway. A 1.5km long spatial corridor that will safely connect school children and the community to local destinations, including schools, homes, playspaces, and the town centre. Te Ara Awataha will link up Northcote’s network of existing and new reserves, and provide sheltered rest areas for relaxation and socialisation.

Te Ara Awataha‘s design has developed out of a series of cultural health indicators, with a strong focus on healthy people and healthy environments. “The most important thing is restoring the health of the environment because that will involve people and help grow a healthy community. This reinforces Māori cultural values for living systems, and the special qualities of this place.” says Isthmus Principal Landscape Architect Helen Kerr,who has worked closely with local schools and the community for the last few years to gather input into the design of the Greenway.

Design workshops with local schools were held to gather ideas for the greenway. As a result, an outdoor classroom along the portion of Te Ara Awataha that borders the schools has made its way into the plans.

The project team also worked closely with mana whenua iwi representatives and artists to ensure that Te Ara Awataha captures the unique cultural narratives and values of this place. Through a process of regenerative design, Mana whenua artworks and integrated cultural design elements explore the cultural and natural histories of Northcote.

Te Ara Awataha is currently under construction and will be delivered in phases from 2020 onwards.

2020 SEGD Global Design Award Winners.

Celebrating connecting people to place.

30 international projects were announced as winners last week in a live virtual ceremony hosted by the Society for Experiential Graphic Design. The SEGD is a multidisciplinary, global community of professionals who create experiences that connect people to place. The winning projects spanned a range of topics, disciplines and verticals, from highlighting the role of technology in addressing injustice in communal workspaces, creating interactive experiences that unearth unconscious biases to material-driven, nature-inspired park placemaking totems. The award-winning designers represented diverse parts of the globe, but what was a common thread for many, was a commitment to use design for the betterment of society.

The jury evaluated projects in seven categories that represent the core of experiential graphic design practice: Digital Experience Content, Exhibition, Interactive Experiences, Placemaking and Identity, Public Installation, Strategy/Research/Planning and Wayfinding. 14 Honor Awards and 16 Merit Awards—spanning the full spectrum of experiential graphic design were chosen from among 340 submissions of experiential graphic design projects from around the world.

“The winning projects have a way of connecting with you. As the jurors moved through hundreds of project submissions, you could see when they came across a project that defined excellence. We were all extremely moved by the intention, care, and focus that was taken to bring these projects to life.” says Traci Sym, Global Design Awards Jury Chair.

Isthmus received a Merit Award for Te Hauāuru Reserve and an Honour Award for the Hobsonville Point Habitat Markers.

“These markers are visually compelling, mixing forms and material beautifully, but it is the exploratory nature of them that I find so inspiring; They are inviting, open-ended, and wondrous, reminding us to be curious, to look closer, to touch—and to focus.”—Jury Comment.




Russell Museum. Te Whare Taonga o Kororāreka.

The proposal for the new Russell Museum Te Whare Taonga o Kororāreka is envisioned as a place to bring together the community, locals and tourists; a place that embodies manaakitanga, or hospitality. Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board chairman Terry Greening says the museum will be “an economic asset not only for Russell but for tourism in the whole of the Bay and Far North”.

As project architects Isthmus was tasked with designing a new museum to replace the existing facilities. This involved significant remodelling of the existing museum building, adding community facilities and exhibition space to showcase nationally significant stories, artefacts and objects.

Museum curator Kate Martin commented on the importance of producing “an empathetic design that is true to the significant site the building occupies both historically and culturally.” The new design does just that, maintaining a strong connection to the maritime heritage and character of Russell, while offering alternative interpretations and possibilities to reflect the cultural histories of the place in a contemporary manner.

The Museum has been granted non-notified resource consent, and will move to Detailed Design once project funding has been secured.

Te Waipounamu. Introducing Isthmus South.

Isthmus are a national design practice. We always have been. While our physical studios are located where our people are concentrated (Auckland and Wellington), a number of us are a part of communities in other locations around Aotearoa. With our ‘One Studio’ approach, our people increasingly have the ability to live where they want, while being a fully-integrated part of the Isthmus whanau. This expansive approach has led us back to Te Waipounamu, where three of our experienced designers are now based.

Nik Kneale, Helen Kerr and Scott McKerrow bring a strongly inquisitive and collaborative approach to design, with overlapping core experience in Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Architecture. Our presence in Ōtautahi Christchurch allows us to work at our best- with clients, communities and collaborators across Te Waipounamu, focusing on wellbeing, engaging with mātauranga māori and regenerative solutions. As an agile and nimble local team we are creatively invested in Te Waipounamu.

Ki te hoe!
To the paddle, let’s go!

Te Wānanga Under Construction.

Te Wānanga, Auckland’s new Downtown Public Space is currently under construction and slated for completion in late 2020. Stitching together the land and the sea, the design brings to life Te hā o Te Tangaroa, the breath of Tangaroa the sea god. This natural rhythm and space between high and low tides has driven the design.

For the last eleven months the Isthmus team has been on-site monitoring the construction progress. The sequences of images above were taken a week apart over a eleven-month period. They show how the construction of a suite of projects; the Downtown Public Space, Ferry Basin Redevelopment (also designed by Isthmus), Quay Street Enhancement, Sea Wall Strengthening and Lower Albert Street Interchange has unfolded.

A transformative project for Tāmaki, Te Wānanga represents an integrated approach to public space design. The project is set to become a vibrant public waterfront that weaves mātauranga Māori through its spaces and narratives offering a new invitation to the water’s edge.

Isthmus Group
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