Rewi Thompson 1953-2016

19 Oct


It is with great sadness that we to acknowledge the passing of our esteemed colleague, Māori architect Rewi Thompson of Te Aitanga a Hauiti and Ngati Raukawa descent. Rewi’s relationship with Isthmus spans nearly thirty years of collaboration on a wide range of high-profile landscape projects across New Zealand. Over the last 12-months this collaboration became closer than ever as Rewi joined our inter-disciplinary studio as a permanent staff member.

While at Isthmus Rewi continued his role as adjunct professor at the University of Auckland and bought to us his ability to engage with projects with fresh eyes and an academic rigour. His influence on the studio over this short time has been profound. Rewi worked in a very tenacious and thoughtful way, always sharing his thinking and asking questions of the people working around him. He was very encouraging and generous with the young designers and also communicated a real satisfaction and joy about coming into the studio every day.

As a man who of the land, his enthusiasm about being at isthmus was fuelled by exploring the the relationship between landscape, architecture and people. Strongly values-based, Rewi brought clarity, depth, confidence and humility to every conversation. On housing, his philosophy was that all people deserve a connection with the land in a beautiful, well thought-out home. He was working to this end on his recent projects such as the ‘everyday houses’ for Northcote.

We have been privileged to have had Rewi in the studio for this period of time; his measured, experimental approach to his work will leave a lasting impression, as will his humour and inquisitiveness. We were lucky to experience his grandfatherly wisdom and his child-like playfulness. His presence will be sorely missed.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to his whanau, friends, colleagues and other collaborators.


A Liveable Arterial: Albany Highway upgrade opens

14 Oct

It’s been over six years since the Isthmus team started work on the Albany Highway project for Auckland Transport, so it was particularly exciting to attend the opening today. The upgrade included the widening of the highway to four lanes – two for general traffic and two T2 lanes – as well as widened footpaths and new on and off-road cycleways.


Around 17,000 vehicles, as well as cyclists and pedestrians, use Albany Highway every day. This regional arterial road serves the North Harbour industrial estate, five schools, Massey University, and a cluster of residential estates. The $38m upgrade (funded by AT and NZTA) of the 4km stretch of Albany Highway between the Upper Harbour Motorway (SH18) and Dairy Flat Highway (SH17) has reduced congestion, improved safety for all road users – including the area’s 5,000 school students – and encourages the use of public transport.

The dramatic improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure have already begun to stitch together the community of users along this stretch of highway. The upgrade linked people together and offers a generous invitation for people to local residents, students and commuters to exchange cars for walking, cycling or public transport. The upgraded Albany Highway proves that local arterials can be liveable.


Albany Highway north upgrade completed early.






By The People, For The People

29 Sep



As part of the recent RMLA Conference held in Nelson Isthmus sponsored Mike Lydon’s keynote session on providing ”a blueprint for the sustainable planning of cities”. Mike is a like-minded designer that occupies the territory smack in the middle of community and transformation projects – through ‘tactical urbanism’. He delivered an engaging presentation that related to people and their relationship with cities.

His concepts and principles provide a catalyst to urban renewal and regeneration. They provide the glue for a citizen led, bottom-up approach to long term gains – “short term action for long term change”. They also provide a ‘build, measure and learn’ process for challenging and testing the status quo in the creation of planning policies for these sorts of urban projects.

Fuelled by our enthusiasm for tactical urbanism, we managed to wrangle Mike into our Auckland studio this week for a ‘brown bag’ in between his  packed itinerary with Panuku. Among other things, Panuku have had Mike back for a ‘health check’ on the “Activate Auckland” programme he helped kick off last year, in part to mitigate the disruption of the CRL.

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Kiwi & Kereru

27 Sep
The following is a TXT conversation between Rewi Thompson and David Irwin over the weekend. The two of them discussed the meaning of land and NZ culture by SMS.
It’s an illustration that ideas are not confined to the weekday and often come at different times of the day and night and sometimes it is important to share these. It’s an example that thoughts and ideas can be described using analogies. It’s an example that design ideas can be generated using words not just through drawing. In fact ideas and design can be communicated in any form from a pile rocks to sketches, to a moving image, to an essay or txt exchange. It is also important that we understand the values we as kiwis bring to our design work, that we understand them and can articulate them.
Following the development of the Northcote project David and Rewi were discussing the qualities of the outdoor space of the smallest lot and house they had previously designed into stage two of Northcote, a 4.2m x 22m = 92m² lot, a 2 bed terrace house of 4.2m x 10m making it 42m² per floor or 84m² and private open space of 4.2m x 5m = 21m² basically the smallest unitary plan complying house.
The question at play was the quality of private open space on the ground.
“So, there it is a New Zealand way of thinking about how we live in the sky. It’s not ground, and like our bird friends, we are being forced there. We need to learn to live in a new way like a Kereru does. Once this is accepted, we can go higher and higher and enjoy our lifestyle in the sky, high in the branches of our conceptual tree.”
– David & Rewi

RMLA Awards

27 Sep

A small isthmus delegation attended the excellent RMLA* conference in Nelson last week, and were joined by others for the awards dinner on Saturday night.

Nearly 400 leading resource management practitioners gathered to attend RMLA’s Annual Conference and Awards in Nelson over the weekend.  A total of ten organisations and three individuals walked away with awards recognising their contribution to the advancement, implementation and understanding of resource management best practice in New Zealand.

*Resource Management Law Association


Isthmus are very proud to have come away with two of these prestigious awards ;

Thomson Reuters Publication Award 2016

WINNER: Isthmus

Coast. Country. Neighbourhood. City.

For capturing leading-edge RMA practice in Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Architecture in an attractive, accessible presentation.

Chapman Tripp Project Award 2016

JOINT WINNER: Hobsonville Land Company, Isthmus, Campbell Brown, Glaister Ennor, Isthmus_Construkt_JV

For setting a benchmark in the delivery of sustainable new communities in New Zealand in the development of Hobsonville Point.

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Introducing Ginny Pedlow

20 Sep


We are very excited to welcome architect Ginny Pedlow to our team. Over the past 15 years Ginny has been an integral part of Mitchell + Stout Architects. Ginny comes with a wealth of experience in residential and non-residential design having worked on projects such as Unitec Institute of Technology, the Tauranga City Art Gallery and Titirangi’s Lopdell House Redevelopment.

After graduating from the University of Auckland School of Architecture in 1985, Ginny worked in London and Paris, concentrating on resorts and boutique hotels. She has an extensive background in heritage buildings, civic works, educational & tourist attractions, educational facilities, residential dwellings and medium density apartments. Her own house in Westmere has been published in Home Work: Inside the homes of 20 leading New Zealand architects. 

Ginny is an active member of Architecture+Women.NZ. She will be joining us as a Principal.



Taumanu Bridge shortlisted for WAN Infrastructure Award

14 Sep

The pedestrian bridge that links Onehunga to the newly created Taumanu Reserve is one of six international projects shortlisted for WAN’s Infrastructure Award.


It is one of two Auckland projects – the other is the LightPath.  The other four are cycling bridges in Iceland, a biomass plant in the UK, a dune carpark in Holland and a transit station at the University of Washington.