Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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posted on 2021-11-12, 23:39 authored by Nankivell, Renée Anne

The demand for a new approach to safeguarding New Zealand’s endangered historic buildings was identified as a result of the recent increase in building code and strengthening requirements following the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-2011. The Wellington City Council identified 266 heritage buildings in the city that must be either strengthened or demolished to address these increased requirements. This thesis explores this threat as an opportunity for researching how contemporary design interventions can be challenged to both strengthen and become active participants in the ongoing history of New Zealand’s potentially endangered historic buildings. This thesis challenges the current approach of completely ‘restoring’ 19th-20th century historic buildings in New Zealand, to develop techniques that structurally reinforce historic buildings while inviting the progressive weathering of a building to remain as a testament to its history. This thesis proposes a structural intervention that is responsive to the progressive history of historic buildings, simultaneously introducing a contemporary structural intervention that both participates in and compliments the progressive historic transformations of the vehicle. This thesis argues that current historic buildings in semi-decayed states in fact enable visitors to witness multiple stages in the life of a building, while fully restored buildings only enable visitors to witness the original form of the building. This thesis proposes a model for contemporary intervention within historic buildings that draws a design intervention from seismic strengthening.The notion of layering is explored as a design approach to incorporate the contemporary with the historic as an additional layer of exposed on-going history, thereby further exposing the layers of history evident within New Zealand’s historic buildings. This thesis combines layering theories of architects Louis Kahn and Carlo Scarpa with related theories of installation artist Mary Miss. The theoretical imperatives of Scarpa and Kahn are explored as a tool of engagement for the junction between the contemporary and historic building materials, and the work of Marry Miss is explored as a design approach for developing a contemporary intervention that references the layered historic building while inviting new means of occupancy between layers. The selected vehicle for the design research investigation is the Albemarle Hotel on Ghuznee Street in Wellington. The techniques proposed in this thesis to strengthen the Albemarle Hotel suggest an approach that might be applied to New Zealand’s wider body of historic buildings that constitute New Zealand’s heritage fabric, ultimately protecting them from demolition while preserving additional layers of their historic narratives. Over all the design research experiments suggest that contemporary interventions derived from structural strengthening may be a viable and cost-effective method of re-inhabiting New Zealand’s endangered heritage buildings, avoiding demolition and securing New Zealand’s heritage for future generations. Research Questions: This thesis challenges the current economically unsustainable approach of laterally reinforcing and completely ‘restoring’ 19th-20th century historic buildings in New Zealand. This thesis argues that current historic buildings in semi-decayed states in fact enable visitors to witness multiple stages in the on-going life of a building. Can the weathered state of New Zealand's heritage buildings be proactively retained and celebrated as witnesses to their history? Can new lateral reinforcing requirements be conceived as active participants in revealing the on-going history of New Zealand's historic buildings?


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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

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Brown, Daniel