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The Night Sky: What have we lost?

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posted on 23.09.2021, 23:57 by Chrisp, William

Over the last 70 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the population living in urban areas across the globe. As a result, the once natural ability to look up at the night sky and ponder our existence has been lost to bigger, brighter and ever-expanding urban development. In our outdoor public spaces, the design tends to focus only on how the space can be enjoyed during the day time, and lighting is placed as a means to allow people to continue this day time experience at night. Yet, often at night our public spaces are empty, as they don’t provide a special night time experience that is different to during the day. We focus on the action of looking forward and around us but never upwards toward the night sky.

This research addresses how landscape architecture can help facilitate a night time experience so that the naturally dark environment can be enjoyed. It analyzes how the relationship between lighting and the physical elements in an outdoor space can be improved to provide greater visibility of the stars. Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, will be used as a case study. The stars can be seen within the central urban perimeter, and the Milky-Way is visible only a 20 minute drive away. As this research is based in New Zealand, this thesis recognizes Māoritanga and acknowledges the importance of Tatai Arorangi within New Zealand’s history and culture and addresses this within the development of this night time experience.

Wellington was split into five different areas based on their differing intensity of lighting as well as typological characteristics. Within three of these areas, a variety of different outdoor public spaces were identified and analyzed using an experiential approach, with fieldwork as the primary method of analysis.

The analysis findings resulted in the generation of a design toolkit to test how specific physical features used in landscape design impacted the night time experience. This toolkit was then applied and tested into 3 different sites in Wellington. It was concluded that the design and implementation of lighting, vegetation and seating has not considered the night time experience. This research aims to contribute to this unaddressed area, by attempting to develop a connection to the night sky through looking at these features in a new perspective.


Advisor 1

Martinez , Carles

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Landscape Architecture

Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

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

Wellington School of Architecture