Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (66.8 MB)

Unorthodox: An ancient tradition - A contemporary context

Download (66.8 MB)
Version 2 2023-09-26, 23:57
Version 1 2021-12-06, 23:39
posted on 2021-12-06, 23:39 authored by Isaac, Anne

For decades, New Zealand historians and architects have sought answers to the question: What is New Zealand architecture? New Zealand longs for a place in the architectural world, seeking the significance of our buildings in the wider realm of world architecture. In 2016, in a presentation based on his book Worship: a history of New Zealand church design, Bill McKay suggested that perhaps, “our most interesting architecture lies in the intersections of our cultures”.  An opportunity is offered by the current shifts of New Zealand society where the impact of immigration on society is one of the most pressing issues that currently needs addressing. This thesis endeavours to explore the specific relationship between the heritage and culture of the existing Assyrian community and its context of Wellington, with reference to McKay’s suggestion that our most interesting architecture is birthed from the intersection of different cultures.  Socially speaking, sense of identity and place attachment play a vital role in the integration of migrant communities into their new home country. Recalling and employing elements of not only tangible Assyrian heritage, but also the intangible qualities found in traditional Assyrian architecture, has the potential to create the connection and enhance the sense of identity which allows for the feeling of belonging in migrants in their host society. This thesis focuses on the space of worship.   This project of an Assyrian Orthodox church building in New Zealand might reflect the life of the migrants who occupy it. Is it a replica of the traditional building in its original context, unchanged and uninfluenced by the shift to a new place? Or is it influenced and integrated; a building which can identify with the soil it stands on? Furthermore, if one considers that architecture reflects society, it is hoped that this design led research will participate in the discussion about New Zealand architecture’s unique identity and emerging new societal makeup.  This design led research discovers that creating a sense of belonging relies on both keeping aspects of the traditional and gaining influence from its new context. As focus shifts from the design of the building at a large scale to details and objects at a small scale, it becomes more important to reflect and retain the traditional qualities of the architecture. At a large scale, the building may be influenced by its context so as to be integrated into its new place, as if it belongs within its new urban fabric. As we move into the smaller scale in design, we draw closer to the body. It is these elements of the design which an occupant experiences more intimately, and through sensory experience and triggering memories of home, can help to create a feeling of belonging. The main findings of this research express the close relationship between architectural scales of intervention and the effects of individual and collective memory.


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)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Campays, Philippe