Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Stepped-ness in medium density housing: The stepped dwellings

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posted on 2021-11-14, 02:14 authored by Batchelor, Emily

Stepped-ness in Medium Density Housing investigates a new form of design, where the site is organised according to different conditions of public, common, shared and private spaces. Stepped-ness is used as a technique for controlling relations at a range of scales and intimacies —from urban to interior— and as a tool for creating continuity of public to private, inside to outside and building to landscape. As a result, circulation and dwelling become integrated as part of a stepped morphology in which higher density living is able to accommodate both a desire for privacy, and a connection with neighbours.  The typical detached New Zealand house reinforces the nuclear family as unit and precludes the extended family. Local models of medium density housing replicate these conventions and continue to deliver autonomous and identifiably singular buildings defined by lot and footprint size. Challenging these conventions, the architectural hardware of this proposal allows boundaries to be redefined according to the preferred size and configuration of a variety of household types. The identity of ‘home’ is less determined by size, and more by relations – within the household and between dwelling and public realm.  Insistently organisational, mat-building explores relational distances. The stepped-mat is examined in terms of the design of mediatory devices and ancillary spaces as the primary element of space planning. This was inspired by Atelier Bow Wow, who is known for creating, “not an architecture of spaces, but an architecture of relationships,” (Fujimori, 2010, p. 128). Initially concerned with the step as a tool for design, this thesis developed to consider the stepped-mat as a way of both controlling and designing space at a range of scales. How then, could the kinds of interstitial and circulation spaces between dwellings be exploited for incidental meetings between neighbours, to sit outside and read a book, or bring some daylight into a corridor (Barker & Simons, 2012, p.155). Designed to both transport and accommodate us, the stairs’ behaviour in the breakdown of vertical and horizontal space drives this design, and forms new relations between households.


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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

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Thompson, Kirsten