Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Spaces Between: Urban Alleys as Sites of Collage

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posted on 2023-09-17, 21:06 authored by Hamish Wilson

Wellington is a dense urban environment that is walkable. People move through it as they go about their lives, walking down alleyways and passages, crossing roads and then slipping through between buildings. The city’s form and mass is threaded through by interstitial spaces that allow people to remake its form, collaging its elements into new arrangements through their personal trajectories.

However, these interstitial spaces— alleyways, passageways— are often underdeveloped and neglected, becoming unpleasant ways to move through the city. But these spaces could be considered active thresholds, possessing complex spatial qualities that, if reimagined, could provide opportunities to revitalise and positively contribute to the urban environment.

This thesis explores how these urban spaces might be re-imagined through the medium of collage.

The inherent spatial complexity of alleyways, that give an urban walker so many possibilities to mix, juxtapose and compress their spatial experience, is intensified through design research experiments utilising collage. In doing so, this thesis adds to understandings of the city, its possibility, and to collage as a way to compose complex spatial, architectural propositions.

In this research, collage is used as a provocative tool, to re-imagine the city’s alleyway spaces. Collage is experimented with as a two-dimensional, image-based practice, and gradually brought to three-dimensions, allowing the representation of context and space to generate new ways of understanding the city, as an architectural collage.

This research follows an iterative design research methodology, where collage is both the generator of the design work and the framework for the process: many different design experiments were combined, recombined and interacted with one another to create a speculative, collaged urban architecture.

This research is thus approached through a speculative lens, using qualitative and exploratory techniques.

It follows a general framework of three scales of investigation, with each informing the other in an iterative series: an installation scale project, a midscale project, and a final architectural project at public scale.

The outcome of this study is both a series of architectural propositions and a re-imaging of Wellington’s alleys and urban environment.

The research contributes to understandings of the architectural discipline in terms of drawing, specifically collage, and its connection to the shape and texture of a city. The city’s alleyways and passages become collage architecture, threading through the city, adding to the vibrancy of urban experience.


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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 Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Twoose, Simon