20 Dec 2016

Auckland firm wins two top design gongs

From Nine To Noon, 9:34 am on 20 December 2016

Storm water systems are not normally associated with international design accolades.

But Auckland urban design firm Isthmus has just been awarded Landscape of the Year winner at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin for its work on the Kopupaka Reserve in Auckland.

It's a hybrid park, formed around a number of basket-like forms which filter storm water while also providing open space for recreation.

Isthmus was also behind another award-winning project, the Taumanu Reserve Bridge in Onehunga, which has been awarded a World Architecture News transport award.

Founding director of Isthmus, David Irwin says placing projects in a way the feel part of the landscape is core to the company’s approach.

An example of which is the approach to handling storm water at the Kokopaka Reserve in Westgate, west Auckland.

“There was an existing stream and valley system there that was already degraded and as part of the new town centre development the storm water which is a normal part of Auckland Council development needs to be upgraded.”

Storm water is one of the biggest contaminants of harbours and any new development has to deal with this source of pollution.

“The difference here is the way we’ve done it. It’s not just an aesthetic it’s not something to just look at, it’s actually useful but playful.”

Isthmus spoke with local iwi and drew on hīnaki, or Māori eel-gathering baskets, to conceal the major pond outlet structures as part of the reserve’s design.

The Onehunga bridge project made good a promise made to the community 40 years ago when the motorway sliced across the foreshore. When that connection to the foreshore was lost a connecting bridge was promised.

“There is 6.4 hectares of reclamation for recreation, reserve and for wildlife and we had to link that back to the community over the motorway and that’s the bridge.”

He says the bridge is designed to be in harmony with the western harbour.

“One side of this bridge has an enclosed wooden side, which is the windward side responding to that westerly breeze and the other side is an open side which is responding more to the flax that you’d see.

“Our projects are trying to respond to a unique New Zealand culture and way of life.”