Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (179.87 MB)

Spatial Ambiguity: Rethinking and Intensifying Social Space

Download (179.87 MB)
posted on 2022-07-28, 02:11 authored by Sison, Jeanne Eunice

For several reasons, public perception leans towards a negative association with collective housing typologies. Aside from associations with low-quality, low-income social housing situations, slums and ghettos, and dissimilarities with the traditional and well-loved detached housing typology, concerns for lack of privacy and a decreased sense of ownership for their home are high on the list of reasons why collective living is yet unpopular, at least in New Zealand. Though provisions for shared spaces and collaborative living exist, they are often underused and unloved as a result. The challenge is for designers to translate these issues into physical, strategic parameters, that can be manipulated as a designed response to territoriality and ownership in a dense social and collective urban housing context.

Recent trends have been showing a global evolution of tradition. In view of ongoing transformations in patterns of daily living, the way that occupied spaces are designed must also evolve. A housing model that is more economic, ecologically responsible, flexible, and affordable is needed. Social housing is allocated to people on the basis of their need, mostly to those with the greatest unmet housing need. Likewise, the concept of cohousing has been going through a revival, as a steady reaction to contemporary intangible social and societal issues - such as loneliness, mental distance, and declining house ownership.

This thesis presents an approach to suburban intensification which addresses the fundamental aspects of individual and community appropriation of space. It argues that an acceptable and desirable model for social and common living can be developed as an alternative to low density suburban living in a Wellington context. The thesis proposes that this can be achieved by developing ideas and strategies based on territoriality, commoning, and a thorough understanding of social context and its architectural implications, that increases the appropriative power of co-living residents over the shared spaces they occupy. The success of such a model will be dependent on the investigation of thresholds between public and private territories, public facilities and a variety of activities within the cohousing complex that are capable of supporting strong links with the wider community, shared spaces that stimulate social interaction, and flexible living spaces that meet the needs of a diverse suburban demographic.

Overall, the research established a manifesto about alternative modes of contemporary living, providing opportunities to engage with the built environment in a more ecologically and socially sustainable way.


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 Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Southcombe, Mark