Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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IN THE MIDST OF DISASTER: An Architectural Response to Pre-Established Disaster Relief

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posted on 2021-03-15, 21:51 authored by Cawdron, Melissa

In the midst of a natural disaster communities look for critical help and support. Wellington city is particularly vulnerable with one main road to and from the city, where a rupture in the Hikurangi Subduction Zone could cause an AF8 scenario, cutting Wellington City off from many critical resources. Civil Defence Centers were used until 2016 as a means of community support in the midst of such a scenario, however these centers have now been removed, with emphasis placed on the individual to be able to fend for themselves.

This thesis researches into how analysis of past disasters and a community’s response can reveal how architecture is able to be developed with disaster relief functionality in mind. Through critical analysis into current disaster responses both nationally and internationally and how they perform when disaster strikes, it is discovered that a community is left vulnerable in the key 24-72 hours post event. Architecture has the ability to bridge serious gaps in current relief plans and through processes taken in this thesis, final research and design frameworks have been established and applied into the developed design outcome.

Taking into consideration the human condition alongside locational and demographical aspects, the need for at risk locations to be pre-prepared and for design to be developed with a secondary disaster relief functionality was highlighted. The objective of this research is to develop an architectural response that offers a means of pre-established disaster relief for the city of Wellington, opening up discussion and further critical analysis into current disaster relief responses within New Zealand. The design works alongside established government plans, and potential post-disaster relief efforts in order to produce a final design that connects with multiple responses following a disaster.

Through understanding how architecture reacts in the midst of a disaster, with research closely following alongside design a framework is achieved in order to produce a design that will support Wellington’s residents both pre and post disaster. This research changes the way architecture responds to disasters and disaster relief, to provide critical support in the initial 24-72 hour period following a disaster regardless of demographics.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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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


Abreu e Lima, Daniele