Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A Culture of Water: Urban Flood Adaptation as a Driver for Regenerative Synergies

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posted on 2024-06-26, 12:18 authored by Georgia Barker

Climate change poses significant and increasing risks to growing urban areas. With the changing climate comes predicted increases in rainfall intensity and sea level rise, making flood adaptation a prominent issue in the built environment. In this context, this thesis investigates how climate actions co-benefits can be integrated into the design of flood-resilient cultural environments. The study looks particularly at New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington.

This thesis sees architecture as a discipline capable of shaping and guiding change in urban areas faced with increased climate risks. Accordingly, this research explores the role of architecture as a catalyst, acting to facilitate the integration of a multi-disciplinary approach to the risks of climate change, while also embracing the aesthetic potential of such responses. Rejecting the notion of built and natural environments as separate, this research seeks to explore the inter-relations between the two in the creation of a design that celebrates opportunities: an architecture of synergy.

Such architecture requires us to reconsider the conventional design process in an attempt to frame a new approach, one that prioritises a resilient future. In this vein, four key theoretical frameworks inform this research-led design thesis: (1) mitigation-adaptation synergies, (2) regenerative design, (3) a systems-approach and (4) ecosystem services. This thesis argues that it is at the intersection of these frameworks that a transformative design approach emerges. A critical aspect of this study is the integration of these frameworks with evidence-based simulations that explore past, current, and future water-related indicators in the city. This allowed for an informed design processes and for the quantification of ecological benefits resulting from the proposed interventions. For this, the InVEST tool is used alongside GIS software to model and map these processes.

Grounded in the approaches outlined above, the design process formulates an urban catalyst intervention in the iconic site of the current Redding Cinema in Wellington’s Courtney Place. This intervention leverages the need for cultural spaces in the city with a water-conscious intervention that maximises environmental synergies. The research finds that the proposed approach significantly improves the ecosystem service provision on the site and creates a flood-resilience for some of the most severe predicted scenarios. Thus, the thesis underscores the importance of an evidence-based approach in architecture, without neglecting its poetic dimension, to propose transformative interventions for a changing climate. The research finds that with limitations comes opportunity for unexpected interactions. When designing in this manner, the architect becomes the facilitator: the built and natural environments unite in the creation of ‘a culture of water.’


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280104 Expanding knowledge in built environment and design

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Nunez Collado, Jose