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Ūrunga Plaza, Wynyard Quarter.

Ūrunga Plaza, the newest public space in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter, has been officially opened with a karakia whakawātea by Taiaha and Clay Hawke from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

Wrapping around the south and east sides of the Park Hyatt Auckland the L-shaped plaza completes the promenade from the Viaduct Harbour to Karanga Plaza, stitching together the waterfront and viaduct harbour promenade for the very first time.

Drawing on the reflecting waters of the harbour, the dappled shade of coastal edge vegetation, and inspired by the timber milling history of the site, the plaza features a series of recycled and sustainably sourced timber stacks arranged in a wave-like formation. These playful stacks provide an opportunity for seating and are framed by native planted raingardens, including one carefully transplanted 6m tall pōhutukawa.

Designed by Isthmus for Panuku Development Auckland, Ūrunga Plaza creates space for people to stroll, and a dynamic and engaging place for visitors to meet and enjoy views to the harbour and city. The project represents a cornerstone public space project in the ongoing regeneration of Wynyard Quarter.


Maungawhau Boardwalk Opens.

New boardwalk the next step in preservation of Maungawhau

We are pleased to announce the opening of the new visitor boardwalk around the crater rim and lower tihi (summit) of Maungawhau / Mt Eden.

Commissioned by the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, the boardwalk was designed by Isthmus, together with Stellar Projects Engineers, the Tūpuna Maunga Authority team, HEB Construction and managed by Chester Consultants. Its completion provides long-overdue protection for Maungawhau, the volcanic cone which is a taonga in every sense of the word.

The previous tihi track was last upgraded over ten years ago with aggregate that had since washed away, leaving uneven surfaces and ruts which were highly prone to erosion.

The new boardwalk follows the contours of the Maunga tihi, carefully winding through the tūāpapa (terraces) where the houses and gardens of the pā once sat, and the rua (pits) which were roofed for storing crops. Culminating in a 4.8m wide viewing deck at the lower northern tihi, visitors can take in sweeping panoramic views over the CBD, Waitematā Harbour, and the network of Maunga across Tāmaki Makaurau.

“With around 1.2 million people visiting Maungawhau every year, a better solution was needed to both protect the pā features and enhance the experience that visitors expect from one of the country’s most iconic Maunga,” says Paul Majurey, Chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority.

The Tūpuna Maunga Authority has been a fantastic client with a clear vision and strong compass for their Maunga. The brief called for a design that did not detract from the experience of the Maunga, its complex of earthwork structures, expressive volcanic form, and to enhance the experience as a journey.

“The Maunga was to remain the main feature on the Hikoi to the tihi. It was an opportunity to be minimal with materiality and reduce the footprint of its structure as much as possible. Sections of boardwalk are kept narrow, changes in direction and angle respond to subtle earthworks on the ground, platform landings reflect adjacent terraces, the handrail is light and disappears from different perspectives – all of this was very intentional.” says Isthmus Landscape Architect Nada Stanish, adding that it was “a complex site and although the design was simple in principle it was a challenge to realise on site, the whole team rose to the challenge and where there is great collaborative effort there is a great outcome, everyone wins. Through design and build, every decision was made with full consideration of the significance of the site.”

The design uses materials that will naturally weather over time and are permeable to the elements, allowing grass growth and ground stability beneath. Allowing the flow of air, water and light through the boardwalk also helps restore the wairua and mauri of Maungawhau.

Minimal disturbance to the landscape was top priority in the boardwalk’s construction. Foundation footings are screwed into the ground using a hand tool meaning no digging was required, and it’s a reversible technique — the foundations can be removed in the future leaving no trace that the structure was ever there. Contractors carried materials by hand to locations onsite to ensure the lowest impact on the archaeology of the site. All materials can be fully recycled at the end of their life.

Isthmus is also proud to have contributed to the extensive planning for the project, which included a review of historic locations and World Heritage sites around the world. Today “Maungawhau and the other Tūpuna Maunga (ancestral mountains) of Tāmaki Makaurau are on a tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status,” says Majurey

To find our more visit the Our Auckland website or go and experience it for yourself and be sure to check out the Te Ipu Kōrero o Maungawhau / Maungawhau Visitor Experience Centre, next to the Whau Café below the tihi (summit). To read more about the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, visit

Revitalising the Rotorua Lakefront.

The $40 million revitalisation of the Rotorua Lakefront creates a new relationship with the lake edge for future generations, a relationship that respects the lake and enhances the wairua and mauri of this shared cultural landscape. Its realisation represents ongoing progress towards Rotorua’s 2030 vision and re-establishes the landscape values of this national taonga.

Isthmus was commissioned to produce an ambitious master plan for this important, multi-year project. One that would tell Rotorua’s stories and presents its unique cultural identity in a high-quality environment, on a par with other internationally renowned waterfronts.

The master plan reflects a shared vision that is enriched by the generosity of shared knowledge, where Isthmus’role has been to listen and “give form to” the key principles provided.
These principles are embodied in the plan’s four key concepts;
1. Remake the Coast
2. Celebrate the Bay
3. Connect to the Town
4. Mark the History

Construction of the entire lakefront development is currently being undertaken in several stages to ensure the Lakefront Reserve always remains partly accessible. The first few stages, which feature the new boardwalk and terracing around the lake edge, will be completed and open to the public mid to late 2021.

Auckland Botanic Gardens.

The Pacific Path, bringing the Master Plan to life.

Opened in late 2019, the Pacific Path, is the first move to be implemented from the Auckland Botanic Gardens Master Plan, completed by Isthmus in 2009.

Designed to improve the Garden’s legibility and circulation the Master Plan provides a spatial framework for long term development. The Master Plan’s key moves focus on retrofitting accessible pathways that join the various collections in order to achieve a more coherent visitor experience and strong place brand.

The realisation of the Pacific Path offers an immersive experience that gently guides visitors into the heart of each of the themed gardens. A series of nodal ‘islands’ within the Pacific Path naturally control pedestrian flow, with each node responding to both the overall Pacific theme, as well as the nuances of its immediate surroundings and location along the pathway.

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.

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