NZILA Award Winners

7 Apr

It was a big evening for Isthmus Group at the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects awards in Wellington on Wednesday night. The highlight of the evening was winning a Supreme Award – The Charlie Challenger – for our book Coast, Country, Neighbourhood, City. The book was also the Winner of the Communications Award.

The jury said,

“Coast, Country, Neighbourhood, City stands tall at the forefront, showcasing a New Zealandness on a local, national and global stage.”

We were also Winners of:

  • the Te Karanga o Te Tui cultural award and the Sustainability Award for Kopupaka Reserve.
  • the Institutional section for the Wellington Zoo’s “Meet the Locals, He Tuka Aroha”.

And finally, we won Excellence awards for:

  • Taumanu Reserve,
  • Porirua CBD and
  • the Auckland Museum WW1 Centenary Memorial competition.

Isthmus design to advance the relationships between land, people and culture. We care deeply about making Aotearoa New Zealand a better place to live. Every project we undertake is collaborative, the work of a team. We extend a huge thank you to all our clients and collaborators.

 Full details of all the NZILA Awards winners are available here.

Our new COO: Sam Irvine

4 Apr

Sam Irvine of Freeview

We have invested heavily in our design-led practice over the last couple of years, and experienced rapid growth as our services are integrated across the studios. Our business has now reached the point at which we need to re-consider how we structure and manage the studios. As part of this we are growing the remit of our Senior Management Team and introducing the new position of Chief Operating Officer (COO).

The COO will lead our support team across Finance, IT, Marketing, HR and Admin as well as manage our relationships with external suppliers such as Legal, Insurance and Health & Safety.

Into the new COO role steps Sam Irvine, a business leader with proven capability in building a high performance culture. The theme of his career to date has been a passion for products and services which enable the use of technology to improve the way we do business and live our lives. Sam joins Isthmus fresh from Freeview where he spent ten years as Marketing Manager and then GM.
Sam is “passionate about working in ever changing, fast paced and fluid environments that are driven to uplift performance through people, profile and service offerings”.
Sam says Isthmus offers an “entrepreneurial environment with the vision to make a true difference in the lives of people. Of equal importance is a commitment to values and excellence. A passion for people is engrained in the culture.”
I’m really looking forward to working with Sam take our business to the next level.
Ralph Johns, CEO

River as a Person

31 Mar

The other day a very important piece of legislation was made into law. The Whanganui River now has the same legal status as a person.


Travis Wooller of Isthmus and friends enjoying the beauty of Whanganui River 2016. 

The river itself is an entity it can have representatives and I suppose it can also be held responsible for things. Continue reading

Old Rifle Range, new public space at Hobsonville Point.

26 Mar

The Hobsoville Point old rifle range gets re-purposed to a public stage and recreation hub. It is no longer a shooting range. It is now a performance space, play space and for the communities recreation and relaxation. Opened to the public at the weekend it adds another major node of activity to Hobsonville Point Walkway.




16 Mar

The project to redevelop Freyberg Place and the Ellen Melville Centre is being driven by a team of female project leads – something Ellen Melville herself would’ve been proud of, believes Auckland Council’s Senior Project Leader Lisa Spasić.

The $10.71 million project, funded by Waitematā Local Board and the City Centre Targeted Rate, has women in many key roles, including senior project leader, project manager, lead landscape architect, lead architect, and manager of the contracting team.



Left to right: Elspeth Gray, Senior Architect at Stevens Lawson Architects; Karina Mascarenhas, Senior Project Manager, MPM Projects; Yvette Overdyck, Lead Architect, Stevens Lawson Architects; Karen Ehlers, Lead Landscape Architect, Isthmus Group; Cherie Armer, Stakeholder Liaison Manager, JFC Ltd; Lisa Spasic, Senior Project Leader, Auckland Council.

It’s a fitting team for such a project: Ellen Melville was an international feminist and campaigner for women’s issues, was the second woman in New Zealand to qualify as a solicitor, and was Auckland’s first female councillor, serving for 33 years.

“I feel like we’re doing Ellen proud – we’re celebrating the things that she believed in, the importance of women in leadership, and in particular women involved in civic affairs in Auckland,” says Ms Spasić.

The vision for the project was set by the Waitematā Local Board in 2014, calling for a thriving community hub to serve the city centre, and a place where all members of the community could feel comfortable and welcome.

The new facilities will open mid-2017.


An artists impression of the revamped Ellen Melville Centre, Freyberg Place and Couthouse Lane.

Ellen Melville Centre: Where the community can gather

The Ellen Melville Centre will be a fully programmed community centre with spaces available to hire, suitable for everything from mother’s coffee groups and dance classes to bigger events like presentations and exhibitions.

On the ground floor a large, open-plan area will be available to all as an ‘urban living room’ that will spill out on to Freyberg Place connecting the community facility with the public square.

Ellen Melville will be honoured by way of NZ artist Lisa Reihana’s bronze artwork Justice, to be installed on the side of the hall, and with the renaming of the facility as the Ellen Melville Centre.


Terraced stairs and seating will cascade down the hill in the same spot a lava flow once did.

Ancient lava flow inspires Freyberg Place design

The square’s makeover will include terraced seating, a water feature, native planting and a plaza area, designed in collaboration with Isthmus Group and NZ artist John Reynolds.

The steps and platforms will cascade down the hill as a lava flow once did in that spot, with a ‘stream’ running through, and native planting will pay homage to the Nīkau palm grove that once stood there. The terraced area has wheelchair access at all three levels.

A new shared space on Courthouse Lane will connect Freyberg Place to Chancery Square.

The statue of Lord Freyberg, New Zealand’s seventh governor-general, will be returned to a prominent position within the terraces, welcoming people to Freyberg Place.

Creating a ‘cohesive space’

Ms Spasić says it was a priority to create a public space that works as a whole, while respecting the area’s heritage.

“There’s a real art in celebrating the equally important but very different historical figures of Ellen Melville and Lord Freyberg while acknowledging the history of the land and creating a cohesive space that works for the community.

“I’m proud of this team of women who have used their skills to create an outstanding public space that Aucklanders can really start getting excited about.”

Article from Auckland Council published Friday, 24 February 2017.

Kopupaka Reserve wins Timber Design Award

10 Mar

We are delighted to announce another successful award for Kopupaka Reserve  – this time at the Timber Design Awards held at the Pullman Hotel last night where it won in the Exterior Innovation and Infrastructure category.


Grant Bailey, Director and lead designer on the project accepted the award on the team’s behalf.

Isthmus would like to thank all who have contributed – clients, Isthmus staff, engineers and contractors, we would like to specifically  thank our Iwi contributors, Te Kawerau ā Maki, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara, of which their support added so much to this project.

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The Timber Design Awards displayed a number of projects from across New Zealand with a high level of sustainability and design thinking.

There was a unique level of creative energy that went into this project and the positive effects it will have on the water quality of the stream.

Northcote Information Centre

6 Mar


We are currently working in the Northcote community, the Community Information Centre is a small but important project for this community.

This started with Rewi Thompson and Emma Davis who were asked to use Space Cubes as the main Information Centre and look into how we could link them together with the ability to expand should more spaces be needed.
A bit of brief clarification, design development and budget realisation has lead us to two Space Cubes side by side with an adjoining deck and canopy shelter “so people can dry off from the rain before entering” – Rewi Thompson.

2.05 Illustrative Perspectives _ Layout

It is located in the parking lot of the Northcote shopping centre along Lake Road. The deck links the industrial – like containers with the leafy Magnolia tree, an in-between place where the community can come, sit and learn about what is happening in their neighbourhood.

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Building Consent was lodged in January without a hitch – all going well, the hope is that we can open the centre once it is through building consent phase… “only council can help us now”