Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Head for the Hills

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posted on 2021-09-16, 23:45 authored by Briscoe, William

In the context of urban design, generative design has been examined as a tool for expansion or optimisation of existing urban networks. This optimisation uses information such as geometry of the existing urban fabric and available space for expansion. However, very little research exists into designing around terrain factors, instead usually opting to consider difficult terrain as simply a boundary for network expansion.

This research seeks to answer the question ‘How can generative design improve the way urban networks are designed in complex terrain?’ It does this by creating a tool that can interpret any terrain information, and with simple designer input, can create conceptual urban schemes in complex terrain.

The tool is developed using visual programming language Grasshopper, an extension for the Rhinoceros3D modelling software. Its development and proof-of-concept scheme are executed in Wellington, New Zealand. The city is one uniquely situated between harbour and steep hills, leading to several typologies of hillside urban schemes to use as precedent and comparison with the tool’s outputs. The Wellington City Council Urban Growth Plan anticipates an increase of 80,000 people in the next 30 years, and the city requires additional areas to house the growing population.

Through a discussion of urban theory and existing generative design exemplars, the thesis settles on an urban grid-based logic for the tool. The thesis then records the process of designing the tool, using a Wellington site as a base for development.

Evaluation of the tool is undertaken using space syntax theory as a key framework, as well as qualitative comparisons with existing hill suburbs in Wellington.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


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

Wellington School of Architecture


Chicca, Fabricio