Mīharo Sean!

Exhibits, anecdotes and oddities.

Earlier this week on the the 1st June we hosted an evening of kōrero, with exhibits, anecdotes and oddities from Sean Burke’s first two decades at Isthmus.  

Sean joined Isthmus as a graduate landscape architect in 2001 and has grown and evolved over the years in pace with the studio’s transformation from a small landscape architecture practice into an integrated design studio. 

A champion of the holistic view of land, people and culture—noted keeper of the project vision—Sean has a big reputation as a considered designer. Through his body of award-winning work Sean has advanced conversations of place, identity and human experience in Aotearoa.  

To mark this epic contribution Sean was awarded Study Leave—two extra weeks off and $2k expenses to gain new knowledge and fresh inspiration.  

Mīharo Sean! 

Wakatu Quay: competition entry.

Recently we participated in a design competition to regenerate Wakatu Quay on the Kaikōura peninsula. Design competitions are very common in Europe but not a typical approach to procuring design services in Aotearoa—so this provided a rare opportunity to flex our design agility and potentially win an exciting project.

Answering the Requests for Proposal and a design competition at the same time was a hard ask. We invested over 500 hours across all of our disciplines—architecture, graphic design, landscape architecture, and urban design. Ten designers located in our three physical studios work with specialist collaborators distributed across Aotearoa as a networked team. We called the proposal that we developed together ‘Expanding the View’. 

While we were not successful in winning the project, we still celebrate the process and the design outcome. Over many years we have grown our knowledge and capability with coastal environments and we were able to draw on our collective intelligence and rich network of collaborators. Using a digital whiteboard and video conferencing we worked as one studio, running kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) workshops locally in each studio. We let the best ideas rise to the surface and developed them further drawing on specialist input as required to test every aspect of our thinking. You can read all about the competition entry in the project section of our website—above are some of the sketches that lead us to our final answer.

Waihōpai Invercargill City Streets.

Design Approved

Recently our Ōtautahi studio have been creating a vision for Invercargill’s evolving city centre. We started this time last year, developing a master plan that not only sets a course to deliver a re-energised central city, but one also built on a solid Land, People, Culture foundation which looks to relink the city (notionally, and in time physically) to its incredible estuarine landscape; the city’s historic reason for being.

The Master Plan was adopted by Council in February and since then, Isthmus have been leading the design and delivery of the first streetscape project: City Streets—Stage 01. The project aims to develop an Invercargill for Invercargill, building on its existing orientation (back to the wind and face to the sun). Developing a new look and feel, that builds on Invercargill’s robust and stoic personality.

Strong and independent without too much fuss.

Stage 01 covers two central city streets—Esk Street becomes a shared space and Don Street becomes a slow speed street with an entertainment focus. These two streets have been prioritised because in combination with the commercial developments, they offer the biggest benefit to the city core—maximising places for people, keeping people in the city longer and making it easy to move freely.

Recognising the colder environment and limited sunlight hours, both streets are designed to create people spaces on the southern side of the street, maximising time in the sun and minimising the predominant cold wind.

Face to the sun, back to the wind has become a catch-cry.

As the team are disbursed across the country (Waihōpai, Ōtautahi and Tāmaki) we have been running regular design sprints at Council. This allows us to be together and be local. Taking the time to really be in the place, spending time with locals, riding bikes to the coast, running the estuary and spending time experiencing the city has given us far greater insights through really experiencing the place.

We all know that constraints can help design. Here our biggest constraint is time—so with each visit to Invercargill, we are sharing work in progress, physical models, showing the mess, and inviting the client to be part of it. We’re presenting ideas to prompt feedback and have found that this probing approach has been working well, minimising formal document issues and evolving the design around the table, together. We’ve quickly reached agreement on all the strategies on which detailed design will be based.

While working at pace, space is being created for Waihōpai Rūnaka to have meaningful input at an early stage, and then throughout.

Following our presentation of the Preliminary Design to a full Council meeting on Tuesday, Councillors signed off the design. We now accelerate into an equally short Detailed Design phase.

Ki te hoe!
Let’s get going!

NZILA President Award Winner Gavin Lister.

We are proud to share that Isthmus Founding Principal Gavin Lister has been presented with the NZILA President’s Award for his contribution to the profession of Landscape Architecture through his work in developing the Landscape Assessment Guidelines. 

The inaugural NZILA President’s Awards recognise individuals and groups who have gone above and beyond, who have engaged with a wide range of issues, or who have worked diligently to provide benefits to and for the greater good of the profession. 

Ka pai Gavin!

Te Ara Awataha wins Environmental Leadership Award.

Te Ara Awataha is setting a benchmark for innovative design.

The 1.5km green infrastructure project in Northcote, has been awarded the GHD Award for Environmental Leadership at the 2021 LGFA Taituarā Local Government Excellence Awards and has also been recognised on the International Good Practice Platform, as an exemplar of innovative and collaborative work being undertaken as a response to climate change and rapid urbanisation.

Of the project, the judges said ‘Te Ara Awataha captured our attention for its interweaving of Te Ao Māori, urban design and environmental remediation principles. It is a collaborative piece of placemaking that goes beyond just a physical corridor to employment, social procurement, and educational objectives. A project that demonstrates regard for all four dimensions of well-being.’

Linking Northcote town centre to existing parks, schools, and homes in Northcote, Auckland. Te Ara Awataha is part of the wider urban regeneration of Northcote and seeks to resolve long-standing stormwater issues while creating a valued and resilient environmental asset. The project includes partial daylighting of the Awataha Stream, a shared walking and cycling path, native planting, play destinations, and the integration of cultural design elements.

Te Ara Awataha is being delivered in partnership with Kāinga Ora, Panuku Development Auckland, Healthy Waters (Auckland Council), and mana whenua. The project is currently under construction and will be delivered in stages over the next 6 years.

Te Wānanga Grove Springs to Life.

After 40 years on Quay Street and a 22-month sojourn away from the downtown construction site, a 6-metre, 8-tonne pōhutukawa tree now takes pride of place in the city’s new Te Wānanga waterfront space. This mighty pōhutukawa is accompanied by eight other mature pōhutukawa, four Nikau, and two Puriri trees that will form part of the urban ngahere (forest) of Tāmaki Makaurau.

The largest tree was carefully uplifted from its original position in Quay Street more than a year ago and moved to a temporary home in Teal Park where it, along with the other trees lifted from Quay Street, were looked after by a dedicated team of Auckland Council arborists. The other Pohutukawa were hand-selected from nursery sites, transplanted, and grown on to their current size before being planted. We’ve been on-site nearly every night this past week to awhi the lifting of each tree by crane into their new locations with improved growing media, larger planters at the water’s edge.

Reaching out over the water and reuniting the city centre with the sea, Te Wānanga and the much-awaited Quay Street enhancements will open for Aucklanders in June.