Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (34.06 MB)

Ethical Remembering: Heritage Conservation and New Zealand’s Difficult Histories

Download (34.06 MB)
posted on 2024-06-15, 06:12 authored by Lauren Gregory

When European settlers first arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand, they swiftly altered the landscape to fit Western aesthetics ideals and the needs of a transplanted architecture, effectively establishing control over Aotearoa New Zealand and its landscape. Continued privileging of this colonial architecture maintains a Pākehā-centric portrayal of history through the built environment. However, a decolonial shift towards more equitable systems, values, and tellings of history, requires a new critical discourse regarding which identities and historical perspectives take precedence in the built environment and architecture that is to be preserved.

Stemming from the decolonial call for the relearning of history, this research explores how the built environment can take an active role in challenging historic myths and prompting engagement with Aotearoa New Zealand’s difficult histories. It explores how architectural restoration has potential to improve the visibility of overlooked history and unjust historical myths, and - in doing so - how it can challenge settler-ignorance.

This research follows a situated and design-led approach through the study and design exploration of a single historic site at the former location of the Māori hostelry in Mechanics Bay, Auckland. Informed by a literature review and in-depth site study, two design explorations - a supportive housing development and an arts and culture centre - are completed to investigate new approaches to heritage conservation and using design to engage with difficult histories. The reflections and knowledge gained from these design experiments form the basis of the findings of this research.

The research finds that heritage architecture need not rely on historic fabric as a primary source of value or on formal representations as the key approach to contextualising history. It instead argues that designing for heritage is a process of meaning-making which prioritises people, shared experiences and continued use as sources of value and connection between the past and present.


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

280104 Expanding knowledge in built environment and design; 130405 Conserving the historic environment

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

3 Applied research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Skinner, Robin