Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Genero-city: Imagining an architecture of generosity through co-design with the Wellington Free Store

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posted on 2024-06-03, 20:42 authored by Zoe Glentworth

Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington is experiencing urban intensification as high density housing is built in the city centre. As the city intensifies, public space plays an increasingly important role in its social and community function, as it needs to offer space for connection, socialisation and sharing, beyond the private realm. Public spaces in Wellington can offer more in this regard. There is great potential to expand the social capacity of Wellington's public spaces to become spaces a sharing, connection, and creativity. Shifting public space in this way could be of significant value to those living in smaller, urban dwellings, such as communities living in the multiple social housing complexes on the urban fringe of Wellington. This research aims to address the social capacity of public space by exploring an architecture practice that is generous, collective and social in itself - an architecture of generosity. I have volunteered as The Wellington Free Store (a community of food redistribution) for six years, whilst studying architecture. This practice-research brings together these two dimensions of my life, to explore the value of bringing the community into my architecture practice, and bringing my architecture practice into the community, to collectively reimagine and re-shape public space with community members from the Wellington Free Store. This research uses an expanded architectural practice through co-design with the aim to foreground the voices of underserved groups through creative collaboration. This challenges traditional architect centred processes, by offering alternative ways of practicing architecture; and ultimately reimagining a genero-city that helps to facilitate a cultural shift towards shared living in generous public spaces.

This research uses a creative practice research methodology, in the context of an expanded approach to architecture that explore beyond building. This draws on ways Muf and Spatial Agency explore other ways of practicing architecture, and is informed by the theory of The Care Manifesto by the Care Collective (2022) and Beyond Sticky Notes: Co-Design for real by K.A. McKercher (2020). This informed a series of three interconnected projects: Tēpu (table), exploring furniture as a device for collective participation; Uhitēpu (wallpaper), investigating sharing power with underserved groups; and Pātaka kai (community pantry), imagining shared spaces of manaakitanga (generosity) through co-design and food sharing. This involved methods of co-design, co-mapping, and co-creation activities with The Wellington Free Store community as creative partners. These methods acknowledge the injustice of colonisation in Aotearoa, and the implications of architecture practice as a tangata Tiriti (a person of the Treaty of Waitangi) on land with contested ownership. Architects wield significant influence through their capacity to design environments that can bring about shifts in cultural attitudes, in this case, towards shared life in urban spaces.

Through this research I have learnt about the value of shifting from a lens of lack to a lens of possibility; the uniqueness of the deep knowledge of public spaces held by community members; and the many possibilities for an architecture of generosity.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

120203 Industrial construction design; 120699 Environmentally sustainable construction activities not elsewhere classified; 130101 Design; 280105 Expanding knowledge in the chemical sciences

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

3 Applied research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Scott, Rosie; Hopewell, Hannah