Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Understanding Human Scale and the Importance of its Relationship with Enclosure

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posted on 2021-11-12, 13:48 authored by Mackesy-Buckley, Austin H.

The main objective of the research is to better understand the concept of human scale and the role that it has to play in the design of our urban environments. The need for a clearer, less ambiguous understanding of human scale is identified as a result of its poor definition and numerous manifestations across a multitude of literature. Human scale is an important part of design that flourished particularly in the middle ages, but has largely been neglected in the industrial and technological ages. Its remergence comes with the return of consideration for the comfort of people. Yet we cannot successfully apply a concept we do not wholly understand. Human scale is therefore redefined as a collective concept that embodies the multitude of existing definitions and treats them as aspects of a larger theory. As a broader but more comprehensive definition it better facilitates the identification and exploration of relationships with what are currently treated as separate urban design objectives, such as enclosure, in an endeavour to better understand the influence of human scale. The design case study proposes a design that tests the relationship between enclosure and human scale. A large site is chosen to display how human scale operates at urban, as well as architectural and detailed levels. Through aspiring to achieve a thorough human scale design, without any exclusive emphasis on enclosure, the process and the outcome still reveal that the theoretical relationship identified in the research (that aspects of human scale foster the formation of enclosure) is unavoidable in design practice. Enclosure simply results as a consequence of thorough human scale design. The research suggests that many urban design objectives may fall under human scale's sphere of influence meaning it is not a singular concept, but an ethic of design that has many desireable consequences. While the idealistic nature of the design may be unrealistic to achieve at present, it highlights the incompatibilities with contemporary approaches and succeeds in generating discussion.


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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