Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Little Old Urbanism: A suburban shift from building to block

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posted on 2022-07-28, 04:03 authored by Parbhu, Hamish

Hataitai forms part of a shift from countryside to cityscape. The village grew organically through the turn of the 20th century and is now heritage listed as a “good example of commercial growth” from this period. As Wellington shifts towards a polycentric city, Hataitai’s close proximity demands its town village intensify and provide more public amenity. A barrier to this is the New Zealand ICOMOS charters, which specify a “minimal intervention” approach when adapting places of heritage value. It prioritises the retention of existing fabric, with no contrast to the existing “form, scale, and material”1. How then, do we intensify the village and provide more public amenity, while preserving the existing fabric?

I have explored this through an elemental study of the existing fabric and the introduction of a public library. Stitching and stretching key moments to intensify the block through direct engagement of the existing form, scale, and materials. The final scheme stretches one existing roof tile across the entire block to unify a number of other site-specific interventions, consistent with the ICOMOS charters.

This approach to urbanism is not the tabula rasa urbanism of the 1920’s, nor is it the pastiche eclecticism of the 1970’s. It’s not achieved through prescriptive guidelines or top-down planning and massing. It has been through a tectonic approach to what is existing. Providing a crucial step for the village, developing from a collection of separate buildings into a coherent urban block.

This research provides an alternative to the ICOMOS charter and contributes to the growing conversation about how we shift New Zealand’s built environment from its rural beginnings to more sustainable urban forms.


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

870299 Construction Design not elsewhere classified

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Kebbell, Sam