Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Experience-driven heritage

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posted on 2021-11-22, 16:36 authored by Du, Sian

Within the Wellington region, there are a number of abandoned military fortifications which were designed as a coastal defence system to protect the harbour from Russian attacks in late 19th Century. Changing circumstances have meant that this coastal defence infrastructure network is no longer functional, and this research aims to bring it back to life. The site chosen for this research investigation is Watts Peninsula, which is enjoyed by only a limited number of the wider public who only visit a small part of the site. The great size and topography of the landscape makes it a serious challenge to manage let alone transform. This site therefore seems to be a great opportunity to explore the disciplinary challenge of how to bring coastal military fortification sites back to life?  Traditionally, the way to bring coastal sites with abandoned fortifications back to life is by treating them as heritage projects. They are protected and sometimes developed as more or less significant tourist destinations that display the significance of military history and heritage. This approach tends to break up the landscape into key areas, with the minimal path system required to connect up the various heritage items and locations on the site. This typical approach severely limits the range and richness of experiencing potential of a site like Watts Peninsula.  This thesis will approach this project by engaging with the countless experiences found within the existing landscape; stepping the normal heritage approach. Topography, slope, vegetation cover, aspect and views were found to produce a great range of effectively separately experienced patches or landscape-experience zones. This thesis sought to understand how the site produced the involuntary types of movement-experiencing that it did and how it differentiated itself into these experience-zones. The types of experiencing that the site produced seemed to have a great deal to do with the interaction of paths/movement through the various mosaic of experience-zones. The aim of the analysis was to discover the actual and potential ways that the site is differentiated into these experience-areas and the actual and potential movement experiences that could allow access to these areas. The design investigation would aim to maximise the number and variety of these movement and experience-zones. The resulting development would aim to spread a complex mosaic-network of experiencing across as much of the site as possible.  This network would be intended to develop in a way where the great richness of possible experiences and the mystery of the site are both increased. The project would require significant funds and so a housing scheme on the southern edge of the site seemed the most obvious way to provide income for such a development. The intended housing development was designed to increase the local population who would have access to the site but hopefully in a manner where the housing would not seriously impact on views to, or the experiences and mystery of the site.  Overall, the design development would be intended to transform this landscape into a destination for varieties of adventuring, exploring and experiencing on a remarkable landscape. With the help of the housing, the possibility of this being an urban adventuring destination and the network of paths and experiencing could then provide something of a way to make the heritage transformation of the fortifications themselves a viable prospect. The treatment of the fortifications has not been engaged with in this project. So, it can be said that this research has attempted to avoid the normal way that coastal military fortifications tend to be developed and proposed, instead, an experience-driven approach to the site and to heritage.


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


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Connolly, Peter