Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Anticipating the Big One: Exploring the role of landscape architecture in preparing Wellington's CBD for a major earthquake

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posted on 2021-11-13, 19:00 authored by Fischer, James

“Risk of urban disasters is no longer a phenomenon that we can stop, avoid or deter, but rather they are part of complex ecological processes from which we are inseparable and must design with, in preparation for the next imminent disaster.”  Miho Mazereeuw  (Mazereeuw, 2011. Pg 85)  Due to recent seismic activity across New Zealand, it has become widely speculated that Wellington is overdue for a major earthquake that could devastate the city. This has brought to light Wellington’s unique vulnerabilities and physical lack of preparedness to survive a significant natural disaster. Until recently, pre-disaster planning has looked towards both architectural and engineering solutions that focus on resisting or deterring the effects of a natural disaster, leaving landscape architecture as a post disaster clean up tool. This thesis aims to demonstrate the potential of landscape architecture within the field of pre-disaster planning, changing the way we adapt to natural disasters within the urban environment. This research will develop a preemptive strategy for Wellington’s Central Business District, or ‘CBD’ that utilises access ways and open space as emergency infrastructure to save lives in the event of a major earthquake, whilst enhancing the urban environment for day-to-day use.  This research proposes that access ways and open space are the catalyst in which landscape architecture could make a significant contribution to the pre-disaster planning of cities. More specifically, it tests the combination of a latent emergency infrastructure with quality urban design through a series of landscape architecture experiments that focus on Wellington’s CBD as a site for design exploration. This exploration challenges the way in which we design our urban environments to allow a level of flexibility in times of distress or natural disaster.  Overall this thesis will generate new ideas and creative solutions to the idea of urban resilience, indicating that, not only can landscape architecture make a significant contribution to pre-disaster planning, but that spaces designed for an emergency function can still enlighten our everyday experience of the city.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Landscape Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Allan, Penny