Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Beyond the Tent - The application of a tool based approach to the exploration of aggregate building methodologies

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posted on 2021-12-08, 14:25 authored by Kent, Dave

To the detriment of many, the act of building dwellings has become increasingly prohibitive. Materials costs and the cost of labour makes up a significant part of this expense. While this issue is becoming increasingly paramount in the western world where you have population increase (expected to be doubled by 2050), it is the genuinely vulnerable who are the most affected. This design research thesis explores the logic of aggregate assemblages as a potentially low cost, low skills base, rapid assembly (not construction) system that could assist in providing a solution to both post-disaster housing demands or refugee encampments where there is plentiful raw base clays or concreteous material. Aggregate assemblages require neither additives or fixings to bind together instead of relying solely and efficiently on their geometry to create connections. A 2004 internal UNHCR report suggested the average lifespan of a refugee camp was 17 years. Further, while providing little beyond basic shelter, the average lifecycle of a UN family tent is typically three months, hence requiring constant costly replacement. Additionally, political desires for non-permanent settlement solutions along with the potential for fluctuating landscapes induced by severe weather conditions suggest that space for an agile yet cohesive and robust rapid assembly methodology exists. Thus, this thesis proposes that interlocking aggregate assemblages could provide an alternative solution that would be a valuable addition to the status quo.  The research argues for an interlocking aggregate creation, and assembly method that goes beyond the tent to offer a durable, robust internal environment with high degrees of flexibility and customisation with its human end users in mind – through the following criteria: allows the occupant to stand up and move freely inside; Accommodates the preparation and cooking of meals under shelter; Can respond to a variety of site conditions: Can adapt to reflect cultural customary notions of space; Can increase the sense of safety and security.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Kawiti, Derek