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Drawn to the Rhythm

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posted on 08.12.2021, 10:36 by Reid, Matthew

Rowing is one of New Zealand’s premier international sports, and our New Zealand rowers have won significant acclaim in Olympic and World Championship competitions. Most recently at the 2012 London Olympics, three of the six New Zealand gold medals and both of the silver medals were for rowing.  The spirit, camaraderie, emotion, and atmosphere of a great sporting occasion are enhanced by a great venue; the sports stadium is not a passive backdrop but a theatre set that can only enhance the experience through its design and management. Yet unlike other premier sports in the country, such as cricket, netball and rugby, New Zealand has no permanent stadium wherein spectators can witness and celebrate rowing competitions and the training of these athletes. Typically the sport of rowing has always relied on boatshed architecture as its only relationship to the built environment. This thesis argues that the use of ‘boatshed’ architecture for rowing teams actively disconnects the sport from the public; but stadium architecture has its own distinct economic disadvantage, in that stadiums are empty more often than they are full. The thesis therefore proposes a new approach to a rowing stadium – integrating boatshed, stadium, gymnasium, and hospitality elements – to provide a new typology for rowing that remains activated throughout the year.  Linda Pollak and Anita Berrizebeitia believe that our relationship to the built environment has increasingly isolated us from experiencing the landscape upon which it is sited. This thesis argues that a rowing facility provides an ideal opportunity to explore how critical boundaries separating waterfront architecture and the sea can be re-examined in order to re-enforce our experience of the waterfront built environment and its unique site, offering new ways to re-connect our experience of inside and outside.  The site of this research investigation is Athfield Architects’ $100 million redevelopment of the Overseas Passenger Terminal into 76 high-end private waterfront apartments in Wellington. The Wellington waterfront is in particular need of public activation, yet this new development effectively privatises an important segment; the goals of developers and cities are often at odds with one another. The thesis argues that, when set within the context of a larger waterfront program, rowing can actually help activate that larger program and enhance its economic value in the same way that a gym adds value to a residential apartment complex and sea views add economic value to a restaurant.  Our harbour cities depend on public activities along the waterfront that encourage visual as well as physical participation throughout the day. This thesis investigates how a permanent rowing facility can become a viable urban activator for both a city and a private development, while also enhancing the public’s relationship with this premier New Zealand sport. Creating the opportunity for the sport and its athletes to be celebrated in the eyes of the public is important to ensure the sport continues to thrive and receives the recognition that it deserves.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Interior Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Interior 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


Brown, Daniel K.