Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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An Icon of Least Resistance

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posted on 2022-07-28, 01:38 authored by Tran, Chi

The purpose of the research is to explore the notion of iconic architecture and it’s contextual responsiveness within a waterfront environment.

The underlying demand for iconic architecture can be witnessed throughout the world. These works are typically generated for the purpose of stimulating economic activity while responding to a need to exhibit an identity within a world dominated by global commercialisation.

The typical premise of such architecture is the creation of a distinct feature within the cityscape, which will draw attention to that location. The very word ‘icon’ typically carries negative connotations of ‘Starchitecture’, ‘exhibitionism’, and ‘pop culture’. Many individuals consider architectural icons as a disruptive element that removes itself from context. However, these unique structures are frequently being sought, regardless of the risk of failing to become ‘iconic’ and the potential to alienate itself within an urban setting.

The research will propose the intersection of iconicity and contextualism, to determine if the architectural icon can still retain it’s ‘spectacular’ calibre while being responsive to the local context. A set of design strategies will be established and distilled from the fundamental principles of iconicity and contextualism. These principles are considered to be ‘supportive’, which will increase the feasibly and success of the icon and it’s integration into our most prominent urban space - our waterfront sites.

A design case study will be subjected to the design strategies to determine their effectiveness. A variety of locations will be investigated due to their inherent differences in regards to context. These differences will foster alternative design approaches to both iconicity and contextualism.

The overall research suggests it may be possible to generate a contextually based icon within a particular waterfront context, using a relatively rudimentary building typology as a starting point.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

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

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McDonald, Chris