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Go Public: Architecture as Activism

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posted on 17.11.2022, 23:32 authored by Reade, Alice

Housing is a human right. There is an extreme housing shortage in Pōneke Wellington with profound impacts; 1% homeless, half of these under 25, thousands living in vehicles or motels provided by the State and houses that cause otherwise preventable illness and disease. Architects design houses and have opinions about how to use space. We must then interrogate this urban relation; how can architecture become an activist to support the social role of housing?

In the urgency of Aotearoa’s housing crisis, this takes an action research through design approach to actively experiment with the re-emergence of the often effaced political and activist dimension of architectural practice. Three areas of discourse, housing, activism and self-build/craft, are drawn together to develop a body of knowledge tested and iterated through the design of self-build/craft direct action engagement with the community.

A series of GIFs engaging with Pōneke-Wellington’s housing discourse and ideas of self-build act as provocations to discussion. Via image creation, they ask: what is given priority in urban space; what is the level of public-private acceptability; if we respond with urgency to the housing shortage, what should we do? Resulting connections, discussions and reflections lead to the self-build of a bike trailer to provide a platform for these dialogues, the very foundation of urbanism, to occur. The cart’s spatially transforming and mobile nature enables this discussion to be taken up anywhere and with anyone.

The research finds an expanded practice, based in personal craft that bears upon public meaning; an architecture of activism rather than plan, section and elevation. The founded practice asserts voice and leverages agency for the everyday user that is diminishing in the financialisation of our city. A spectrum between activism and engagement is found, workings between ideology, education and community discussion to give back to the community with tools to shape their future.


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

130205 Visual communication; 280104 Expanding knowledge in built environment and design; 130101 Design

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Kiddle, Rebecca; Hopewell, Hannah