Opening up the harbour with a floating archipelago

6 Jul

Welcome home to the Auld mug. The latest Paper Boy features the Isthmus design concept for the next Americas Cup.


The brief  was to choose a site for an America’s Cup event to be held, and suggest the amenities that could accompany it – be they parks, housing, transport links, or other more outlandish suggestions.

The theme of our concept was:
Ki te kahore he whakakitenga ka ngaro te iwi – Without foresight or vision the people will be lost.

The Maori proverb urges a progressive future for the unification of our people. The America’s Cup is Now Aotearoa’s Cup – The quote made famous in 1995 is translated to give it new meaning, a new purpose and a new origin. America’s Cup has traditionally been an event that is participated by the world’s wealthy boating community – here an opportunity exists.

Inspired by Christo’s floating piers, a promenade is draped over the Waitemata Harbour meandering towards a scaffolded floating pavilion. The pavilions create a new cultural and spectator experience accessible by everyday people. Playfully the promenade moves back and forth connecting land, sea and people. The promenade democratises the water and becomes an extension of the public realm. A synthetic archipelago challenges perception and provokes contemplation. Sitting on the edge between manmade, nature and the spectacle that is the Americas Cup.

Mid-Year Promotions

29 Jun

Over the years I’ve observed some characteristics of people that thrive in our studio culture.  These individuals are positive, proactive and collaborative. They are self starters. They take the initiative and are quick learners. But most of all, they are independent and self-confident.

In our vibrant studio there’s the opportunity to get involved in the work you want to do and to make your own opportunities. The following people have all progressed their careers this year, and are contributing at an even greater level. They are pushing themselves, getting out of their comfort zones and going the extra mile. Each of them embody our values of creativity, curiosity, authenticity and tenacity. 

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Children’s Garden – a living classroom

23 Jun


Recently Wellington City Council held an open day at the Children’s Garden in the Botanic Gardens. The project is still a little way off completion so this was not the offical opening – that will be in the spring.

The Children’s Garden is going be a hands-on, playful landscape where children are free to explore and interact with nature with a focus on learning through enjoyment about plants for food, fibre, construction and medicine.

“When the garden is fully up and running, there will be hands-on activities that help students understand the importance of plants in our lives. These education sessions will be based around themes of sustainability, interconnectedness and culture to encourage respect for the natural environment and the importance of plants – now and for the future.” – Councillor Peter Gilberd

Dealing with complex levels, and carefully working around exisiting trees, the design has woven a multi-layed sequence of spaces that will delight and educate children (and adults) for generations to come. A pavilion building for indoor education sessions is integrated into the garden.

This project is the largest investment in the Wellington Botanic Garden since the duck pond was built more than 18 years ago.


Isthmus ‘Matariki Day’ 2017

9 Jun


Several years ago we embedded an additional ‘public holiday’ into the Isthmus culture and calendar – we call it Matariki Day. We think that in the future all New Zealanders will celebrate an authentic, home-grown winter holiday of seasonal and cultural significance; a public holiday for Matariki rather than Queens Birthday.

We give all of our staff an extra day off, and in the evening hold a dinner in the studio for all whanau. This is our way of looking back and reflecting upon the successes and challenges of the previous year, as well as recognising all staff for their contribution. We tell some stories and look forward to the year ahead. We enjoy a uniquely New Zealand meal together, and afterwards, while the adults talk, the kids are kept busy with the ‘matariki tamariki design challenge’.

Our studios will be closed on the following dates:

Chews Lane studio, Wellington. Friday 23 June. 

Sale Street studio, Auckland. Friday 30 June. 



Te Hauauru Park

2 Jun

A new town centre is emerging at Westgate in West Auckland. In addition to Kopupaka Reserve our design team are also working on the adjoining ‘town park’ known as Te Hauauru.  The 1.1ha park will provide a green heart to the area and create quality open space to support the future growth of Westgate.

“With a proposed café, a large lawn for events, picnic lawns, a water feature for children to play in, and landscaping with native and cherry trees, the park will give shoppers and future residents a green, open space to enjoy,” says Henderson-Massey Local Board Chair Vanessa Neeson.

‘Kia toitu he kauri’ translates as ‘Keep Kauri Standing’ and is the catch phrase of the Kauri Dieback Programme. Following are a series of images used in the design process for the park’s water feature. The kauri relief pattern is embedded and emerges out of a sequence of ground planes within the water feature. The idea evolved through series of meetings with iwi where stories of shared histories around milling and gum digging surfaced – then concerns about Kauri and dieback.

The imprint suggests we think about water quality, wai mauri, wai tapu, wai ora, wai maori – awareness of where we tread – what rests beneath us – death, decay, growth, and then new life.

Hero 1

The following images depict the design process from 3D computer modelling to physical modelling and CAD drawings – of the water feature.

The photograph of the Kauri bark is transformed to a photoshop file and manipulated to form layers which are given height to create a unique fingerprint of the tree bark in digital terrain form. The process is then tested using our studio 3D printer to produce a number of test maquettes at 1:20 scale. Then a 1:1 scale 4.4m x 4.0m 3D routed MDF plug is crafted enabling a silicone rubber mould to be produced. This then allows pre-cast concrete panels to be produced that form the bottom of the water feature.

Hawkins Construction are building the park, due to be completed this spring. Isthmus have provided both architecture and landscape architecture services.


Connections Reflections: State

18 May

A preview of one of the exhibition images “State” by Haylea Muir.

This Saturday the 20th May of the outdoor photographic exhibition Connections Reflections Auckland opens on Queens Wharf, Downtown Auckland New Zealand.
Isthmus are proud to announce that Haylea Muir is one of 7 photographers chosen to shoot and curate the exhibition under the guidance of top International Photographer Tom Ang.

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Petone to Melling Cycleway

18 May

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 5.52.01 PM (2)

The proposed Wellington to Hutt Valley Walking and Cycling Link (W2HV) will be a game-changing connection in Wellington region’s cycling and walking network. It offers a healthy and safe route around the harbour edge and beyond. This has long been a missing link for walkers and cyclists.

Pages from 4068 NZTA W2HV Open day info boards 2017 .15

The project is divided into three sections. NZTA are currently seeking public feedback on the Petone to Melling (P2M) section which includes an update on the Ngauranga to Petone (N2P) harbour edge section. The Wellington CBD to Ngauranga section will be delivered by Wellington City Council.

Isthmus have been working with NZTA, Aecom and Incite on the design of the N2P and P2M sections over the last couple of years. All going well, the P2M section will begin construction, and the preferred option for N2P will be out for public consultation before the end of the year. We’re looking forward to progressing this transformational project.



Project posters can be found here: