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Friends, Enemies and Bunkers

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posted on 07.12.2021, 01:42 by Tan, Jason

A biosecurity centre on Kapiti Coast is required for checks on visitors venturing 5km out to the nationally significant nature reserve, Kapiti Island. The shorefront lacks a public building connecting to Kapiti Island. The proposal for a visitors centre is the vehicle for this design-led research. This thesis experiments with architectural form in a coastal setting exploring some specific approaches to form-making.  New Zealand architects often rely on metaphors as a method for making form. For example using mountain ranges or a waka as a referent. International theorists like Pier Vitorrio Aureli argue for a more self-referential logic. Architect Ron Witte explains that a good architectural ‘figure’ comprises architectural references like programme, technology and form. The removal of its representational obligation gives the figure its strength. How does a good figure work without the dependence of an external referent? Can the referent be removed allowing the figure to work internally?  Derivation from earlier sources is also commonly used in making form often resulting only in the abstraction of the image. Winy Maas and Adam Caruso both acknowledge that  ‘novelty is nonsense’. They argue that references from the past should be used as existing knowledge and built upon. How can past sources be used for their value in knowledge rather than their use of imagery?  This thesis is organised into a series of parts with experiments around figuration and form-making each looking at a particular use of a referent. Experiment one looks at form-making through the derivation of ‘heroes’. Experiment two focuses on abstracting and using the metaphor of a waka. Experiment three explores anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures through the architectural language developed by John Hejduk. Lastly, experiment four abandons these figures and buries the building in the site’s dunes. The form and façade of the building refer to the work of several Swiss architects including Valerio Olgiati and Christian Kerez for their use of ornamentation in heavy buildings.   The outcome and implications of this design-led research address a disciplinary exploration of the referent and its use  in making a form. The final design proposition extracts six formal principles used in common with works from Olgiati, Kerez and Caruso. The proposition is re-built on top of existing knowledge, offering a particular approach to form-making.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Kebbell, Sam