Wellington’s rapid growth.

26 Aug

Founded in a Remuera garage in 1988, Isthmus’ name derived from the Auckland landscape, but after a few years the practice branched out across New Zealand, establishing further studios in Tauranga, Christchurch and Wellington. This decade the GFC and the Christchurch earthquake saw a consolidation to ‘one studio’ split across two cities; Auckland and Wellington.

Like Auckland, our capital-city team has grown rapidly over the last couple of years. Today there are twelve staff in Wellington, with three more arriving soon. We have an integrated team of architects and landscape architects working together on wide range of large, complex projects all over central and lower North Island, and beyond. The team are involved in designing spaces, places, buildings and networks that will help move the region forward over the next few years.

Among many other things, projects on the drawing board in the Wellington studio include: Palmerston North central city streetscapes, Lower Hutt’s Civic Gardens, Kumutoto North on Wellington’s waterfront, the Children’s Garden at Wellington Botanical Gardens, a kiwi house in Rotorua, a kea aviary at Wellington Zoo, Porirua CBD revitalisation and new cycle infrastructure around Wellington harbour.


Some recently completed work:


Kopupaka Reserve -Ngā Aho Design Finalist!

22 Aug

Isthmus_Kopupaka Reserve_Best awards image.png

Kopupaka Reserve represents a design-led approach that integrates community amenities with engineering and ecology. The creation of new public space and the development of a strong sense of place.

We are delighted that Kopupaka Reserve is a finalist in the Ngā Aho category of the Best Awards. The Ngā Aho Award recognises excellence in two areas:

1. Aotearoaness
Design that reflects a clear understanding of who we are and where we are in our unique corner of Moana nui a Kiwa, the Pacific Ocean, by responding to our indigenous culture, heritage and sense of place.

2. Collaborative practice
Design that results from meaningful collaboration.

The Kopupaka Reserve project for Auckland Council, led by Grant Bailey, follows the concept of Taiao – protecting and restoring the natural environment – closely, with local biodiversity established in ecological corridors of native plants selected to attract birds and provide a cultural resource.

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.

Finalists announced for Best Awards!

9 Aug

We have had some great results in this years Best Awards, with finalists CCNC, Taumanu Bridge and Porirura Kiosk. We have more results to come by the end of the month for other categories we’ve entered. We have a solid team that just keeps producing outstanding projects – and we will continue to do so.

Below are the finalists that have been announced:


Taumanu Bridge – Onehunga, Finalist in the public & institutional spaces category

Porirua CBD_8

Porirua Kiosk & Landscape – Finalist in the public & institutional spaces category


Isthmus Book – Coast. Country. Neighbourhood. City. By Inhouse – Finalist in the editorial and books category.

The judges will complete their judging at the end of the month – we still have one more entry in Nga Aho to be returned!


Hobsonville Land Company’s 10th Birthday! How time flies!

5 Aug

by Haylea Muir, Associate.

On Thursday night we attended Hobsonville Land Company’s 10th birthday party. It was a fantastic evening with homage paid to the long serving, remaining original employees of HLC, along with the development partners, the rule makers, the rule breakers, the visionaries, the designers, the advocates, the story tellers and the writers, the constructors and the sellers: the whole team that has made, and is making Hobsonville Point happen.


There were a few speeches, all of which reflected on what Hobsonville Point as a project has meant.
To Auckland, to New Zealand. To the World?
To the people that live there. To the people that have worked on it.

In summary: this project has meant a lot of amazing things to a lot of people, many of which are obvious, some of which are lesser known. The discussions tonight reminded me of a few things, so I thought I might share:

I started my full time position at Isthmus toward the end of 2007, just in time to join Paul Brown’s team and help finish off the very first masterplan document. I don’t remember working on Hobsonville as an intern but I remember helping build that document. Looking for precedent images, trying to understand what ‘mixed use’ meant, tracing diagrams, laying out the pages and writing captions for all sorts of things that were going to be components of a new community.



Not long after that I worked with Grant and David on the first stages of the Buckley precinct. Fresh out of Uni and slightly obsessed with urban ecology (I’m not sure what happened to that over the years, I should get back into it), left to my own devices for a few days while Grant was very busy, I designed an elaborate street tree and planting strategy that focussed on food sources for kereru, convinced that Hobsonville was going to become an ecological stepping stone between the Waitakere ranges and the Greenhithe bush. Amazingly, we submitted that exact plan for consent (I think Grant was too busy to argue).

At the time, Hobsonville Point was completely devoid of native bird life.
We know because we counted the birds.

I’ll always remember the day David told me to ‘forget everything you learned at Unitec, you’re an urban designer now’. Over the years since then I have been part of an amazing team of talented and knowledgeable people and worked on everything from the design of a drain to regulatory documents for entire precincts and almost anything in between. I have designed, I have managed designers, I have talked and drawn and written and waved my arms in the office and on site. My name has even been put on several awards.


But what does Hobsonville Point mean to me personally?

  • Immense pressure.
  • Immense pride.
  • A sharp and steep learning curve that I will be eternally grateful for.
  • The discovery of, and periodic reminders of, why I love my job so much.
  • The discovery of, and periodic reminders of, why I sometimes wonder how much easier my life would have been and how much more sleep I would get had I not become a landscape architect…
  • Some really great relationships that I’ve been lucky enough to form with the team both inside and outside of Isthmus.
  • Immense pride (I know, I said that already… but it’s really true, we are changing the way people live guys! it’s huge!).
  • Immense pressure (it’s huuuuuge!!!!!).

Hobsonville painting

Another theme that came through last night was that it’s very easy to stand here now and look at how awesome everything is and think it can happen easily again and again. But it doesn’t all happen by magic and it’s not all easy or simple. It’s been extremely complex, there have been arguments and struggles and losses alongside the gains for all involved.

It’s no secret to the insiders that it’s been a hard slog, but it’s also been such a rewarding one. Where there was once an expanse of land that seemed on my first site visit like 85% airbase, 10% weedy neglected mess and 5% pony club (that I’m pretty sure only had one real pony) there is now a developing community. Yep, not just a subdivision, but a vibrant place where people enjoy their homes, their neighbourhoods and their neighbours! Surely this means success!
I have lost sleep. I have moaned and groaned and cried and sworn. I have told off contractors and complained to planners. But one memorable day, a couple of years ago while grumbling to myself after dropping my drawings in a puddle, trying to take a photo of a piece of footpath that was poured wrong, a kereru flew over my head.

Isthmus hosts NZILA Auckland Branch 2×2 Event

28 Jul


On Wednesday 27 July the NZILA Auckland branch held their annual 2×2 event, which gave presenters from various companies and educational institutions the chance to talk about their best and brightest projects within two minutes across two slides.


30 plus presentations were delivered to an audience of 80+ curious punters. Traditionally the 2×2 event have been successful and the feedback has always been positive with participants able to take snippets of knowledge home with them.

Porirua Kiosk_John Broadbent
Isthmus was proud to host the event and bring people into our design home by opening up the studio for the evening.

We also had presentations from members of our talented Isthmus team: John Broadbent, Mark Radford, Paggy Shen, Rebecca Jerram and Matt Jones (who also MC’d the night), with Julia Moore timing presenters and monitoring the slideshow.
Bruce McKenzie wrapped the night providing a summary on the recommendations for the Unitary Plan (that were released earlier in the day). A healthy conversation followed (facilitated by Matthew Bradbury) on what these changes mean for the future of Auckland and in turn our role as landscape architects.

This type of event is important in our profession because although we are competing directly against each other to win projects we all have a common goal to create spaces, places and environments for New Zealanders to enjoy and be proud of.


Isthmus wins the Supreme Commute Award

22 Jul

This year Isthmus entered Auckland Transport Commute Awards; as part of an organisation wide approach, Isthmus has made it easier for staff who choose to cycle, walk, train or bus to work by providing facilities that encourage these behaviours. Isthmus is an inner city studio with limited parking facilities on site and in the immediate vicinity.

Our entry highlighted the steps we’ve taken to make it easier for staff to leave their car at home and commute to work by cycling, walking, carpooling or using public transport. Another great initiative was providing access to a Cityhop vehicle in the company car park. This gives those who don’t bring their car to work the ability to meet with onsite clients, travel to meetings and manage emergencies effectively. Notably, Gavin Lister sacrificed his car space so the City  hop vehicle could be a permanent resident.


Matt Jones the driving force behind the cycling campaign (second from left) Holding the winning trophy and certificate.

The Auckland studio has a total staff of 51 of which 35% cycle to the studio, 35% use public transport 2% us a combination of cycle and ferry and 28% use their vehicles as the main method of transport (mainly due to distance travelled).

We hope to remain at our “Supreme” level by pushing some new initiatives across the business and minimise our carbon footprint further.


CCNC shortlisted in Book Design Awards

7 Jul


Coast, Country, Neighbourhood, City (CCNC) has been shortlisted for three awards at the PANZ* (publisher’s association) book awards.

  • Best Illustrated
  • Best Typography
  • Best Cover
Well done to our designers, Inhouse, who worked with us for over a year to create the book.
The winners will be announced on Thursday 28 July.
*The Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) established the PANZ Book Design Awards to promote excellence in, and provide recognition for, the best book design in New Zealand.

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