Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Vestigial Space: An organic evolution of architecture

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posted on 2022-09-27, 05:53 authored by Duxfield, Joshua

The thesis begins with an observation that many successful designs often use the non-functional or unoptimized space formed by the constraints of site or the design itself to drive the rest of the design, the hypothesis being that the challenge of coming up with a solution to an otherwise redundant or unoptimized space always produces novel results. The thesis defines these spaces that drive this phenomenon as “vestigial space” due to their formation occurring during the evolution of architecture.

This thesis aims to prove that by consciously designing using vestigial space – as either a starting point or a catalyst – will arrive at a more novel design. It tests this hypothesis through the study and redesign of the new Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facility (MIQ) typology. It is noted that Covid 19 has tested New Zealand’s capability for human biosecurity both at the border and within the country. With all existing solutions being temporary, the thesis then notes that long-term biosecurity requires new purpose-built answers, making it the perfect area to test this hypothesis.

The resulting covid hotel design is a starting point for discussion around novel means to tackle the issues of human quarantine and an exploration of possible solutions to current problems identified within the government run MIQ facilities. The use of the idea of vestigial space forces the development of unorthodox solutions and created a design with a greater relationship to its context which in this case revolves around the issue of access and isolation.

The thesis then concludes the hypothesis is true and that the use of vestigial space, formed by the constraints of the problem to begin design, can help to ground a project within its context.


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

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


McCarthy, Christine