Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Paper Space: High density housing experiments, exploring slope and pathway, in Wellington’s character suburbs

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posted on 2021-12-08, 23:37 authored by Cooke, Alice

Wellington is a city defined by its hills, and the landscape and terrain have played a significant role in shaping urban growth. The steep terrain adds to Wellington’s striking landscape and contributes to ensuring the city remains compact. However, the incline has often been at odds with the city grid. ‘Paper roads’ or unformed legal roads are an outcome of this tension and provide a residual space in some of Wellington’s inner residential suburbs.  The problem of a growing population and lack of housing in Wellington is a well- documented and much discussed issue. Given this continually increasing demand for housing, the desire to conserve character suburbs often comes into conflict with desire to retain Wellington’s compact city form. Wellington City Council is currently undergoing a review of the Urban Growth plan, with the intention of developing strategies for a potential 80,000 new residents in the next 30 years.  This thesis suggests a possible method of further densifying proximate Wellington suburbs by utilising residual space provided by ‘paper streets’. More broadly, this thesis will develop and test a model of higher density housing in the identified residual spaces of existing suburbs. Although Wellington’s paper roads have special characteristics, including the public amenity provided and the close relationship to existing built fabric, they also provide the case studies for residential intensification on steep sites.  Existing practice for hillside projects largely conforms to the strategy of small elements tumbling down the hillside. The research explores an alternative approach, questioning the negative connotations associated with existing large scale projects. An iterative design process identifies and refines a series of design criteria in order to inform the possibility for intensifying development on these hillside sites. Analysis of the work and literature of celebrated Californian firm, MLTW, informs the approach to developing these sites. The consideration of the public pathway and the experience of inhabitation for both residents and members of the public emerges as a central to the design case study, and the resulting criteria.


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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

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


McDonald, Chris