Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Suburbia: The Government Subsidised Urbanism Nightmare

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posted on 2023-04-14, 03:30 authored by MacGibbon, Zachary

New Zealand is a country with deep-seated roots in the outdoors, from its rolling farmland to its lush native bush. As it stands today however, New Zealand is at a crossroad with cities like Christchurch finding its surrounding farmland and forests being mass subdivided and its prime centre city lots in low residential demand. Meet the New Zealand ‘quarter-acre dream’, an ideal of which most kiwis are all too familiar, with it having been around about as long as we have. This ideal, born from settlers' wishes to escape the cramped cities, and modernised by the post WWII car-dependent, suburban experiment, has its fair share of shortcomings. Be it environmental concerns, suburban subsidisation, racial & gender discrimination, or infrastructural inefficiencies, the viability of low-density suburbia as a long term housing solution has been long called into question. Yet even through the crippling trading of short-term growth for long-term liabilities, New Zealand suburbia continues to grow without signs of slowing.

While planning laws and governmental intervention have attempted to encourage the adoption of higher density living with varying success, the hesitancy of New Zealand suburbanites is evident. From an architectural perspective, the quality and desirability of the competition in the form of mid-high rise residential developments, may well be contributing to said hesitancy. In a research article by Hazel Easthope and Andrew Tice it was said that; “a disparity exists between identified planning assumptions regarding apartment residents and the actual apartment population.” (2011). This thesis intends to fill that void by developing design strategies that translate the desirable aspects of the New Zealand ‘quarter-acre dream’ and better cater to the needs and preferences of current suburbanites and those that would readily join them. While the jump to a high rise apartment is likely too much for many, the use of medium density housing provides a more palatable compromise. It’s entirely plausible that by designing a desirable, medium-density housing alternative to traditional detached suburban homes, catered towards the needs and preferences of New Zealand suburbia's majority demographic, architecture can play a more significant role in the slowing of suburban sprawl.


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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

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Wood, Peter