Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Underground Architecture: Connections Between Ground-Level Public Space and Below-Ground Buildings

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posted on 2021-11-12, 10:13 authored by Wright, Aimee

The main objective of this research is to develop an underground space framework which establishes design solutions to underpin the successful design of underground buildings. The poorly conceived nature of contemporary underground space often means it has little, or no contribution to its above-ground environment, as it neglects the significant relationship between the ground plane, and above and belowground space. As a result of this omission towards its above-ground environment, urban design theory and practice have neglected the subject of underground space, where it is presented typically as ancillary spaces, of a highly fragmented nature. This problem is addressed through a literature review, establishing the treatment of underground space within urban design literature, a taxonomy analysis of the physical form of 90 contemporary underground buildings, and a discussion of the five archetypes of underground space. Developed from the findings of each of these research sections, an underground space framework is established. The framework is divided into six guideline categories with which each focusing on a major design issue relevant to underground space. The presentation of each guideline briefly states the issue, its objective, and then suggests various solutions for implementing the specific objective. The guidelines are intended to be flexible, where they are selected, developed and applied with regard to the underground buildings unique site and programme characteristics. The design case study, an extension of Wellingtons Museum of City and Sea located at Post Office Square, demonstrates how these guidelines can be used, through selecting, developing and then applying, suitable guidelines in response to its specific site and programme requirements. In total, the research suggests that the underground space framework can underpin the successful design of underground space through establishing strong physical connections between below ground and above ground public space. This can be achieved through blurring the boundaries between above and below -ground space, revealing historical underground elements above ground, and considering the underground as a viable option to resolving specific urban design issues present above ground.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McDonald, Chris