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Thinking: Crisis Creates Opportunity

Right now city councils across Aotearoa need to make physical changes in the streets in order for us to safely re-inhabit our cities. This gives us an amazing opportunity to explore what city spaces designed for people would look like. Wellington CBD provides an ideal laboratory to prototype such an idea.

Coming out of lockdown gives us the opportunity to accelerate the mode shift away from private care; we have an opportunity to make a leap forward by quickly and temporarily reallocating street space to  prioritise cycling and walking as the city opens back up.

Design thinker Nick Kapica talks about how the current crisis creates an opportunity to quickly adapt our urban public spaces to support physical distancing, and suggests that we also try something much bigger; Crisis Creates Opportunity. 


Communal Living — Wirihana Master Plan

When Te Ākitai Waihoua approached us to rethink an earlier masterplan for Wirihana, South Auckland, we immediately saw the ability to weave the untapped value of the Puhinui Stream and its environs into an intensive residential setting. This knitting together of a sensitive ecological landscape with an intensive residential setting presented an opportunity to not only bind a community together, but also to connect them with the natural environment.

A collaborative and integrated design approach – urban design, architecture and landscape architecture – has resulted in a master plan that fits with its place. The master plan for Wirihana itself has been designed to act as a catalyst not only for the wider neighbourhood of Wiri, but also for the city of Manukau itself. This is an opportunity to demonstrate a new way of living communally, intimately connected to place.

The interplay of the street network with linear parks, green spaces, wetlands, plazas, homes and retail activity are all “bound” together through a series of placemaking gestures, fostering community and wellbeing for its residents and visitors alike.

A total yield of around 630 dwellings is proposed in close proximity to a major rail/bus interchange at Manukau City Centre, shops and schools. Housing diversity and density is integrated through a mix of housing typologies that specifically target the Government’s Kiwibuild aspirations, in particular the Walk-ups, Home + Income and Terrace typologies.

Three separate architecture practices – Crosson Architects, Brewer Davidson and Sills van Bohemen – were engaged to produce house designs for the development of the first stage (three superlots) that have been coordinated and integrated into the overall masterplan by Isthmus for which resource consent is now being sought.

Experienced and Confident — 10 Promotions

Our team continues to grow in experience and confidence; this week ten individuals have been recognised for promotions at all levels.

Graduate to Intermediate:  

Tayler has been heavily involved in the community regeneration projects across Auckland with a particular focus on Northcote. She is a safe pair of hands who takes the initiative and is solution focussed. As well as her strong technical skills she has also been communicating and collaborating directly with clients and consultants. Tayler is thriving working in the overlap between architecture and urban design and consistently performs at a very high level.

Intermediate to Senior: 

Danny has been actively working to advance to senior over the last year. He is a committed landscape architect project manager; balancing time, cost and quality. Danny makes sure that things get delivered and has become a core part of the infrastructure team, bringing his collaborative skills to fast paced multi disciplinary projects. On the social side Danny plays a mean guitar and brings that and his vocal talents to Isthmus band — the oi oi’s. 

Zach has a really strong technical landscape architecture skill set and is adapting well to a more relaxed profession than he is used to from the USA. Zach is strong at design development, fully focused on smart solutions and has impressive technical skills across a variety of platforms. Zach has quietly developed into a safe set of hands and is a proactive collaborator with our external partners and clients. With roots in New Zealand as well as in the US it is great to see Zach find his feet as an Aotearoa based landscape architect. Fun fact — Zach’s dog eats socks and is called Shackleton. 

Frank has become an increasingly confident and trusted member of the team. He has been busy across a range of landscape architecture projects, often leading detailed design production and liaising with clients and consultants. Frank is very thorough and detail focussed. He always resolves issues and gets the job done.  

Lydia has settled into the Isthmus studio really well since returning to Aotearoa from Europe. She has a lot of experience and talent to offer; her positive, energetic and professional approach have seen her work across a range of projects. Communication and collaboration are real strengths; Lydia is a natural when it comes to community consultation and engagement. 

Senior to Associate: 

Travis sets the bar high; he drives himself to do the best for the project, from concept stage right through to construction. Travis has maintained a strong career trajectory since joining Isthmus as a landscape architecture graduate less than seven years ago. Incredibly trustworthy and committed, Travis has become one of our strongest design managers where his personable skills serve him well as he encourages the best out of the people around him for the benefit of our projects.

Andrew joined Isthmus as a graduate ten years ago; since then he has been constantly learning and finding his voice as a designer. He works really well with others to deliver public realm projects from master planning to construction. With such a broad depth of experience under his belt Andrew is well on his way to becoming one of Isthmus’ future design leaders. After taking a year to travel the world in 2016 Andrew returned to Isthmus, and while based in Tāmaki contributes his flair to our seamless studio.

Sophie is a lively and enthusiastic member of the studio who has gained the necessary confidence and experience to become an Associate. Sophie shines when it comes to the detailed design and delivery of landscape architecture projects. She has been a key member of the design team that has delivered several award winning projects in recent years. Sophie ensures that issues are resolved on site; her sharp eye and communication skills have ensured high quality built work. 

Associate to Principal: 

Nada joined Isthmus way back in 2004. Over that time she has exerted her quiet-but-strong design influence on a huge number of award winning projects as well as to the culture of our studio. With a background in both fine arts and landscape architecture Nada’s work is imbued with meaning; she is particularly good at translating the essence of a place into subtle but fundamental design moves across all scales. As a Principal, Nada will continue to influence the design thinking across all types of projects. With her assured style and strong compass Nada is making a significant contribution to the discourse on Land People and Culture within Aotearoa New Zealand and Isthmus in our leadership role in that area.

Matt joined the SMT late in 2018, and has had his fair share of challenges to deal with, all of which he has worked through with a combination of energy and grace. Matt recently celebrated his 10 year anniversary with Isthmus. His career in design planning is advancing rapidly; he is a well respected expert witness currently working on various projects across Aotearoa and is a member of Auckland’s Urban Design Panel. Matt also finds time to chair the Auckland branch of the NZILA.

Responding Together

The Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly impacted how people go about their day-to-day lives around the world, and we are now experiencing the impact ourselves right here in Aotearoa. This is affecting everything and everyone, now is the time to really lean into our values of: curiosity, creativity, authenticity, and tenacity.  

We are putting whānau first, ensuring that all of our people and their families are safe. Staff will be able to use their extra week of Wellbeing Leave to look after themselves, whānau and community.  

Isthmus’ purpose is to deepen the relationships between land, people and culture. Our people come to work each day because they all believe in helping leave this place a better one than we found it. By continuing to focus on projects we hope to generate a ‘new normal’ for our staff and clients. We will continue to meet our deadlines and maintain our studio culture as best we can.

We use integrated thinking, collaboration, talking, writing, sketching, making, to solve complex problems — this continues. We will continue to maintain our project-focussed design culture, some things may need to be done differently using different tools. From Wednesday 25 March all Isthmus staff will be working remotely. We will connect with you virtually and in the cloud through a multitude of tools that are the best match for you and your project: G-Suite with Hangouts, Office365 with Teams, Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Slack, Trello, Loomio, and VPN access to our servers. For maximum flexibility and resilience we operate on multiple platforms and choose channels that are the best-for-client and best-for-project.

Isthmus was founded on a strong ethos of collaboration and teamwork. We work together as ‘one studio’. Through this crisis all the things you know us for will continue to hold true, albeit delivered in a slightly different way.

Board Strengthening

Independent Director Christine Spring brings industry-leading governance experience and human-centred business thinking onto the Isthmus Group Board.

Christine brilliantly integrates her experience and unique talents to pursue a career in governance as well as being an author and award-winning photographer. 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. 

Her values: Challenge, Trust, Respect, and Generosity, resonated with us and the journey we see ourselves on. In order to see from a different perspective, you need to challenge yourself. The Isthmus approach of No-Boundaries requires trust and respect in each other. Generosity to each other, with clients, with the land, will bring more than we can imagine. 

Christine has also a great fit with the Isthmus culture and values: Curiosity, Creativity, Authenticity, and Tenacity. Her commitment to innovation, creativity and strategic thinking aligns with the our ethos of connecting Land, People and Culture, together with our vision to become Aotearoa’s leading design studio.

No Boundaries leads to NZIA Recognition

The judges described Kumutoto Pavilion as an ‘edgy little pavilion —playful and allusive, both sculpture and shelter— a welcome addition to Wellington’s urban littoral’, and Freyberg Place as a ‘welcome oasis in the cityscape of downtown Auckland’. 

Isthmus have received two of the nineteen New Zealand Architecture Awards given this year. Both are in the Planning & Urban Design section: Kumutoto Pavilion, and together with Stevens Lawson Architects Ltd in association with John Reynolds the Ellen Melville Centre & Freyberg Place.

Isthmus is an integrated design studio, with a kaupapa that deepens the relationships between land, people and culture. Receiving these awards further boosts our evolution towards becoming a transdisciplinary design studio; both Kumutoto Pavilion and Freyberg Place champion our no boundaries approach to design.

To realise the full potential of every brief we apply design thinking and take an open-minded, inquisitive and interdisciplinary approach. We start without knowing the answer and follow the creative process. Our flexible studio culture incubates ideas; the closer and more collaboratively we work together, the more chance ideas have of spreading, growing, cross pollinating and transforming. We call this way of working ‘no boundaries’ because we think in terms of opportunities rather than constraints. We are outcome focused and not constrained by a specific output. Every project is different, but each follows the same design thinking process, always informed by our kaupapa of land, people and culture.

At the core of our approach is a shared leadership model, a method of harnessing complementary skills, mixing skills and experience, broadening the decision making ability, while retaining clear communication lines to the client team. Providing the client with a stronger and more rounded leadership, as well as more resilient team structure, where particular skills can be harnessed for the project, allowing the client to benefit in the wide skill base need on these complex city spaces.

This recognition —at the highest level— from the NZIA is hugely appreciated and gives us energy in pursuit of our ambition to become Aotearoa’s leading design studio.   

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