Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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THINK BIG, act small

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Version 2 2023-09-26, 01:35
Version 1 2021-11-23, 01:47
posted on 2021-11-23, 01:47 authored by Roach, Elyjana

Porirua City is twenty minutes north of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. The city is fifty years young and is home to the youngest demographic in the country. The city is culturally diverse but lacks a clear architectural representation of this cultural diversity. The city has developed around a beautiful harbour but the waterfront is underutilised in the city’s urban design.   THINK BIG, act small proposes a design strategy that re-invents Porirua City’s urban future by bringing people back to its neglected water-edge. The proposition explores how design as process and outcome can empower a community for the future of a city through spatial agency and social engagement. The thesis explores the designer’s role in this process as landscape architect, architect, and social activist. A series of large, medium and small scale interventions are proposed. The Strategy is presented in three parts:  1. The Toolkit: a kit of architectural ideas designed to re-think the city’s urban environment around its relationship to water. These ideas can be deployed over time.  2. Two Temporary Projects: two small interventions from The Toolkit are tested in Porirua. An art installation and a community pop-up space are used to initiate conversations around the future of the city with people of the city.  3. The Big Move: a series of design moves, both big and small, are proposed as a composite vision for the future of Porirua. The proposition includes outcomes from the community pop-up space. The Big Move proposes a constructed wetland park, a series of blue-green streets, public pools, and housing. The aim is to establish new ecosystems that ease flooding, improve water quality, provide catalyst areas for economic growth, and create new social spaces for the city. The design aims to draw the harbour into the city. Polynesian and Maori attitudes towards land and water are integrated in the design: land is boundless and water is a bridge. A park, Te Awaura Park, is proposed as a ‘soft’ edge to the city’s existing boundary. The narrative of the park expresses the neighbourhood characterstics unique to each suburb in Porirua. The park aims to create a true local space, a space celebrating the city’s people.


Copyright Date


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


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Title

A cross disciplinary exploration into re-orientating the city of Porirua towards its neglected harbour

Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Thompson, Kerstin; Martinez Almoyna Gual, Carles