Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Edge of Chaos

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posted on 2022-07-28, 02:02 authored by Isaacs, Christopher

Wellington was founded on a diverse ecosystem junction. In 1840, 625 hectares of land surrounding the city centre was set aside by The New Zealand Company to be protected and enhanced but not built upon. In 1873 the land was gifted to Wellingtonians by the Crown. Encroachments and development in the city have seen this Town Belt land reduced down to 400 hectares. Only recently has it been increased up to 520 hectares and now steadily increasing (WCC, June 2013).

In landscape, changes in population or community structures that occur at the boundary of two differing habitats are known as the ‘edge effect’. Due to lack of oversight by the Wellington City Council, Wellington has a growing tension created at the junction between the green and grey, the edge condition.

“At the Edge of Chaos, unexpected outcomes occur. The risk to survival is severe.” — Michael Crichton, The Lost WorldWhen the land was set aside the national population was around one hundred thousand, Wellington alone is now three times that. With a growing population, our Town Belt edge is where the interaction of nature and human activity happens progressively; it is also where we find modern ecosystem junctions, at this edge condition that Gilles Clément refers to as ‘The Third Landscape’, and Doyne Farmer calls ‘The Edge of Chaos’.

Wellington’s Belt edge is now taken up largely by encroaching backyard fence lines, a lack of continuity along its linear length, few celebrated access ways, and largescale ecological and access fragmentation.

Using these categories as a mitigation framework, this investigation proposes to daylight this Third Landscape at selected sites, not only to help initiate the process of healing, but also to celebrate the unique attributes of the edge between green and grey. This research proposes to develop this unique edge by perceiving it not only as the Third Landscape and The Edge of Chaos, but also as a ‘Heterotopia’ – a type of edge condition that Michel Foucault refers to as a ‘place of otherness’ reminiscent of a mirror, a liminal zone. Using these theoretical frameworks to design a set of interventions along Wellington’s ‘Liminal Edge’, the thesis sets out to purposefully disrupt private and public use and create multiple Moments where users can begin to better understand and fully respect the unique and fluid ecosystems that define the urban edge.

This thesis investigates the tension along the edge where urbanisation and urban sprawl collide with green spaces. Overall this edge is not productively utilised by the growing population in Wellington – and as a unique set of environmental conditions, it provides unique opportunities to enhance Wellingtonian’s awareness of their impact on our fragile and reactive natural environment.


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 Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Brown, Daniel