isthmus conference: our studios are closed this Friday

30 Nov

Our studios will be closed all day Friday 2 December as we gather for our annual conference. We will be getting off the grid, getting to know each other better (we’ve hired over 30 new people this year).

We will be looking back at all we’ve achieved in 2016 and planning new initiatives for next year.

You can find us at Lat = -36.201404 Long = 175.423208






We’re hiring graduates

24 Nov

As Isthmus continues to grow with an influx of exciting new projects that advance land, people and culture, we’re looking for a handful of talented and enthusiastic graduates to join us in 2017.

At Isthmus, collaboration is everything. It’s the way we structure our work, our play and Continue reading


22 Nov

Article reproduced here from the World Architecture Community, an official media partner for World Architecture Festival Berlin, in Germany.


  NOVEMBER 21, 2016 – 13:19   216     SUBMITTED BY WA CONTENTS

Kopupaka Reserve in Auckland, New Zealand designed by Isthmus has been named World Landscape of the Year 2016 at the World Architecture Festival this year. The project is a hybrid park, where a storm water reserve has been combined with an urban park, playground and skate park, all made possible by dovetailing the masterplanning of the streets with the green infrastructure of the 22-hectare reserve.

Judges praised the project as ”a successful translation of Maori traditions that succeeded in being both poetic and imaginative in its creation of a landscape that captures the soul and nature of the area.”

”Inspired by woven baskets for catching eel, Isthmus has developed an innovative river-wall system of interlocking timbers. Simple yet sophisticated engineering allows the baskets to retain silt and create habitats which will shift and change over time,” jury said.

David Irwin, Founding Directore, Landscape Architect, and Grant Bailey, Director, Landscape Architect, attended to present the scheme to the WAF’s international jury. The finalists were selected from 58 countries.

Kopupaka Reserve represents a design-led approach that integrates community amenities with engineering and ecology. The humble strawberry is an unlikely victim of the changing face of Auckland city yet, in west Auckland, the acres of strawberry fields that once defined the landscape are being replaced with the infrastructure of a new town centre at Westgate, part of an Auckland Council strategy to cope with a predicted population boom.

Interpreting the existing site hydrology, the notion of weaving histories and overlapping functions together is the dominant design narrative of the park, with a concept of ‘thread, weave and gather’ articulated in physical form through the strawberry furrow, merging tributary and constructed wetlands of the park. This is a hybrid park, an integration of infrastructure with the natural.

A Plan Change process and resource consent application for the Town Centre development led to Council engaging Isthmus to develop an appropriate framework for the wider Plan Change 15 de-velopment and open space areas, with continued involvement through the processes of resource consent, development of a Design Guide for the Town Centre, and detailed design and construction.

The design of the open space at Totara Creek has challenged stormwater reserve expectations and illustrates how urban growth can be balanced with ecological restoration to create new public re-serves and urban connections, while developing strong landscape amenity.

The masterplan pro-duced by Isthmus in 2010 includes the revegetation of the Totara and Sakaria Creeks, provision for shared pathways, playground, skatepark and open grassed areas, all structured around five stormwater wetlands.

Timber structures integrated into and defining the edges of the three three main wetland ponds take reference from weaving of harakeke into kete and hinaki, a concept developed between Isth-mus and Rawstorne Studios that utilises a standard timber crib retaining system to create forms that weave their way throughout the designed landscape creating a series of spaces and land bridges adjacent to the wetland water bodies.

The spaces created provide for reed-bed filters, a skatepark, and a weaving garden showcasing harakeke species available for harvesting. The land bridges connect the wetlands along a shared pathway, facilitating wayfinding and recreational ac-cess to the water.

Last year, Landscape of the Year Award was given to Chinese firm Turenscape for Yanweizhou Park, which created water resilient terrain and plantings- were designed to adapt to the monsoon floods; a resilient bridge and paths system were designed to adapt to the dynamic water currents and people flows.


All images © Isthmus

> via WAF

kopupaka reserve wins world landscape of the year 2016

19 Nov

Isthmus_Kopupaka Reserve_007
From among ten finalists from around the globe, Kopupaka Park was selected by the jury as World Landscape of the Year 2016 at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin on Friday night.

David Irwin and Grant Bailey attended to present the scheme – each team had 10 minutes to present. The jury said:

“Inspired by woven baskets for catching eel, Isthmus has developed an innovative river-wall system of interlocking timbers,” 

“Simple yet sophisticated engineering allows the baskets to retain silt and create habitats which will shift and change over time.”

We’d like to thank the whole design team, and especially our client, Auckland Council, for always believing in the potential of the project.

New Wellington Studio

17 Nov


Level 5, 56 Victoria Street

It’s been a rough week for the Wellington studio with earthquakes & floods, and it’s not over yet (another storm is on its way today). The studio was closed on Monday, after the big one, while it was checked out by an engineer. It was found to be structurally sound, and everyone was back in on Tuesday. However, it’s not the strongest building in town and we had already decided to move out.

So, after six years at 45 Courtenay Place, and 4 years before that at no 49, we are relocating. Our new studio will be located on Chews Lane in the central city. At 310m2 the new space is a third larger than our current studio. At the seismic rating is double our existing space.

We plan to shift over the weekend of 17/18 December. 



Study Leave

13 Nov

Isthmus has a long tradition of recognising people who have served the practice for 10 years. Long-serving staff have been given extra leave and expenses to support work-related study and/or travel. Study Leave is intended to refresh and inspire, and applies to all staff.

This year Helen Kerr studied eating, cycling, playing and much more in the happiest country on earth, Denmark.

Brad Coombs went to Japan to walk, cycle, study historic gardens and speak Japanese.

And Nada Stanish and Sarah Bishop went to New York together on a “pilgrimage to the most iconic metropolis” where they kept quite busy (sketches below).

Each of them returned full of inspiration & ideas, with a greater sense of context and perspective for our position in Aotearoa, and a renewed passion for place. We look forward to celebrating their next decade at Isthmus.



Te Motu A Ihenga

7 Nov


Isthmus recently completed our annual planting day on Te Motu a Ihenga (Motuihe Island).  It all felt so familiar but with new faces.  We got a lot done, so let me quantify that below.

  • 48 volunteers
  • 356 hours of work
  • 600 nursery plants processed
  • 4 tamariki
  • 3186 dollars
  • 54 bagels
  • 2 Tuatara
  • 3 Kiwi calls
  • 4 Weta
  • 1 Korora and egg
  • 1 angry Kingfisher
  • 2 movement activated night vision cameras
  • 1 injury
  • 1 Wellingtonian in formal attire
  • 4 tender shuttles
  • 600m² area planted
  • 1000m² area weeded
  • 12 cans of beer
  • 5 hours of bush bashing (kiwi hunting)

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