Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Made to Measure: Revealing and Measuring a Dynamic Coastal Environment

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posted on 2021-12-07, 07:34 authored by Leslie, Callum James

MacLean Park located on the Kapiti Coast has one of the most dynamic natural environments in the country. As tides rise, dunes shrink and grow and rivermouths shift over time, it can be difficult to perceive these environmental changes due to promptly forgotten benchmarks.  Within this thesis, I argue that architecture could provide both a benchmark and datum by which we can begin to understand and register these environmental changes, highlighting a need for architecture’s role to act as a mediator between our natural and urban environment.  The project explores a series of methods and strategies to make this dynamic and shifting environmental condition visible. A rigid and reductive geometry forms a potential answer. This informs a series of experiments which look to uncover how we can visually measure and observe our built and natural environment. A design-led research methodology leads to initial investigations on form and reduction within a chaotic landscape, followed by approaches to register site specific data and historic landmarks.  The final design investigations centre on a holistic coexistence of built form amongst the dunescape, lifting the modular structure on piloti above the delicate ecosystem below to allow the landscape, dunes and flora to flow freely in a temporal manner and interact with the building. The resulting design method shifts from a reductive approach to taking measure through ordering systems and composition to a more integrated approach between landscape and architecture. Here, measurement and observation become both an instrumental and poetic narrative as the building becomes a reflection of its surrounds.  The resulting tension between a rational and poetic approach to designing sees the Kapiti Island Biosecurity Visitor’s Centre become a measurement device on a coastal threshold. Through this architectural response, we can begin to observe, measure, read and understand the ecological qualities of the immediate site and its association with the township beyond.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

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

School of Architecture


Kebbell, Sam