Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The City as a Home: A Landscape-led Response to the Treatment of Rough Sleepers in Our Urban Environment

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posted on 2024-06-14, 21:36 authored by Logan Bunn

Homelessness is a prevailing issue in today’s socio-economic landscape, with over 100,000 New Zealanders suffering with home deprivation as of 2018, and more than 3,000 having no shelter at all. Unhoused citizens rely heavily on public spaces for survival; however, hostile design practices are frequently implemented to exclude them from urban centres. This form of social control instils injustice and inequality within the urban fabric.

As landscape architects, we have a duty to uphold and address social issues through the design of spaces that are socially just and equitable. This thesis investigates how design practice can respond to hostile measures and instead envision public spaces designed with and for the unhoused community in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington). It seeks to foreground and test inclusive design approaches, challenging hostile architecture and exploring its broader impacts on the urban environment.

The overarching methodology of this thesis is research through design, supported by participatory research (in collaboration with unhoused citizens at Downtown Community Ministry), logical argumentation (positioning and debating within the issue), and activist experimentation (creating activist installations to provoke localised discourse around social issues in design). These strategies drive the development of a final inclusive design brief and guide the design process within a test site in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. The significance of this research lies heavily in the ability to collaborate with the unhoused, whereby fostering an empathetic understanding of the injustices embedded within local urban environments. This thesis explores inclusive design methodologies and how they are applied to enhance the lived experiences of those who are most marginalised.

The key data collection driving this thesis will be gathered through in-depth participatory research, including collaborative workshops with the unhoused community. The workshop process utilises map-making to capture the socio-spatial realities and lived experiences of the unhoused. This participatory process is essential in uncovering the critical factors that facilitate survival and belonging for the unhoused within localised urban spaces. The findings from these workshops further translate into a visual protest artifact entitled ‘He Iti Kahurangi Te Whanganui-a-Tara’, presented in an installation to provoke public discourse. This installation served to amplify the voices of the unhoused, raising awareness and generating empathy among viewers while also translating to a brief for design.

This thesis highlights the need to humanise rough sleepers and integrate their needs into the design of public space, whilst also demonstrating the positive impact of inclusive and empathetic design practices on the broader community. It underscores the potential of landscape architectural practice to address social justice issues and create more inclusive public spaces through proactive collaboration and activism.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Landscape Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130304 Social ethics; 130205 Visual communication

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Title

The City as a Home: A Landscape-led Response

Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Hopewell, Hannah; Scott, Rosie; Alexander-Tu'inukuafe, Rameka