Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Bring Back the Bach

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posted on 2021-12-07, 22:53 authored by Woolley, Isabella

The historic informal architecture of New Zealand’s coastline is precise; it’s small, modest, individual, and ultimately exhibits the concept that less, is more. This architectural heritage is the bach. It’s an icon on the New Zealand coastlines. These occasionally occupied dwellings hold a nostalgic feeling to many Kiwi’s. Baches typically sit lightly on the land, and are careful to not outshine the beautiful environment that attracted its occupants to its site.  Through the effects of privatization and subdivision, parts of New Zealand’s coastline have been overdeveloped, which has dramatically affected and diminished the coastal environment. The contemporary holiday home is typically a more expensive, large, suburban house, unsympathetic to its landscape. This change in coastal architecture and settlement patterns is making the coastline inaccessible for many. As the old Kiwi bach is being redeveloped and replaced, New Zealand architecture is losing part of its identity. We are ruining that pristine environment that attracted us to the coastline in the beginning.  This research looks towards coastal environments in the northern area of the North Island of New Zealand. Kawau Island serves as the testing ground for the design research, with a historic and hypothetical subdivision as the setting. The design tests the research at varying scales; how the land can be subdivided, how the land can be occupied, and how the buildings can be designed, to collectively and individually have less impact on the environment. The purpose of this research is to find how we can design more sustainably for our inhabitation of the coast of New Zealand. If we still want to inhabit the coastline, how can this happen in a more mindful way? We inhabit the coast to enjoy that environment, so we need to build with the least impact so that it can be retained and enjoyed.  An understanding of building with low-impact to the environment is at the forefront of this research, to ensure that there is minimal impact throughout both construction, and occupation. Building with minimal impact was investigated through theoretical sustainability principles, precedents and design testing. This impact is interpreted through several different aspects of the development; the way that the development is owned and operated, the siting and clustering of buildings within the land, the tectonics and constructions of individual dwellings, and the way that this development connects on a larger scale with the island.


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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

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Southcombe, Mark