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WHARF DWELLERS The Placemaker Series

Tom Dobinson


for mum and dad


PREFACE An inquisitive concern for the future of my hometown town, Lyttelton, was the motivation for this thesis. My interest in how people dwell within the Lyttelton context was sparked by exploring a derelict house abandoned by the artist Bill Hammond. It was this curiosity in what defined the unique character of Lyttleton and its inhabitants that led me to an investigation of the architectural meaning of place and its application to Lyttelton. Woven into my research is an exploration of Bill Hammond’s paintings, particularly the ‘Placemakers’ series that addresses place identity in a nontraditional sense. The paintings expose a personal understanding of place and provide a method for characterising some of Lyttelton’s obscure, ephemeral characteristics.

01. Bill Hammond Placemakers 1 1996



Aknowledgements: Thanks to my supervisors, Simon Twose and Jan Smitheram, for your guidance throughout the year. Mark Southcombe and Dan Brown, for your enthusiasm and advice when it counted. Joe, for all your help with editing and encouragement to put pencil to paper. Jacob, for sharing your photographs which capture the mood of Lyttelton. Most of all, thanks to Sophie – my partner in crime.

A 120 point thesis submitted to the School of Architecture and Design, Victoria University of Wellington, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Architecture (Professional) Victoria University of Wellington February 2015

02. A House for Bill


Lyttelton is a port town connected to the world via the sea. The progressive expansion of the port zone has disrupted the connection between the town and the water’s edge, causing the occupants to experience a diminished sense of place. Consequently, this research explores the proposition that architecture can play a central role in developing our sense of place. It investigates this proposition by developing a method to represent place through architectural form, which will in turn reconnect the occupants with the water’s edge. In order to understand how architecture might achieve this, the research used an iterative design process as the overarching methodology. The thesis establishes the literary and physical context of the research before presenting the design exploration. This design work investigated the proposition through three experiments, each increasing in scale and architectural complexity: an installation, a house, and a public wharf. These developed a range of architectural techniques for representing place through architectural form. The works of Bill Hammond, and his role as an eminent Lyttelton occupant, were used as a narrative throughout to characterise some of the town’s ephemeral characteristics. The research recognises that an important role of designers is to interpret both the physical aspects of a location as well as the atmospheric and ephemeral aspects, and communicate this sense of place in a way that enables the public to fully engage with their environment.


03. Sea fog resting in Lyttelton harbour




04. Pin board

CONTENTS Introduction - Introduction / Proposition - Method: Making & Narratives - Thesis Structure Literary Context: Discussing Place

09 15

The Place: Lyttelton Case Studies


- Bill Hammond - The Fall of Icarus - Watching for Buller - White-House - Wet Lands Experiment One – Installation DESIGN


37 61

Experiment Two – A House for Bill Experiment Three – Wharf Dwellers




Works Cited


Figure List




05. Installation Detail

INTRODUCTION Lyttelton, a place of arrivals and departures, has a strong sense of history, of layers of people connected to the land and of transplanted culture – Jennifer Hay (37). This volcanic port town, situated in New Zealand’s South Island, is a place linked to the world via the sea. Through its founding nature as a port town, the identity of Lyttelton has always been defined by its relationship to the harbour. However, the township and its occupants have lost their engagement with the water’s edge due to the progressive expansion of the port. The resulting disjunction, caused by the closure of public access to the docks in 2001, has led to the occupants losing a sense of place. Due to its emphasis on locality, this thesis develops a specific understanding of the relationship between place and architecture. The human environment is a complicated phenomenon – a disorganised layering of social, ecological, physical and historical information. Together, these qualities culminate in an identity understood as ‘place’. The built landscape plays a central role in our sense of place because it occupies much of the physical landscape. Paul Brislin argues that architecture “conditions how we feel and respond to our surroundings” (8). This design-research seeks to develop a method to represent place through architectural form.

06. Lyttelton Inner harbour and township



A ‘narrative’ method was used to imagine future occupation and convey personal observations of Lyttelton. This helped to develop specific programmes for the design work that were related to place. Sheila Danko suggests, “narrative thought embraces context-dependent, subjective perception, and is concerned with the particulars of… place” (11). The narratives formed in this research combined personal observations with researched evidence to create speculations around real life characters and events. Consequently, the design process synthesised myth and reality to form a speculative architecture.

Instead of posing research questions and then finding answers, Jane Rendell suggests, “in much design research the process operates through generative modes, producing works at the outset that may then be reflected upon later” (117). This research develops methods for representing place in architectural form through the design of three experiments: an art installation, a house and a public wharf. Increasing in scale and architectural complexity, each experiment informed the anothers; the sensorial experience of  the installation being carried through to the city scale of a public building.

A process of ‘making’ was employed to formalise the narratives and observations of place. The role of making in the design process included physical modelling, photography, drawings and digital collage. The emphasis was on extensive physical testing where observations of place were seen and folded into a process of model making. The models synthesised materials and ideas, allowing the line of enquiry to be pursued through an “iterative, inquisitive and imaginative process” (Smout, Allen Bartlett). The photography then provided a representational lens through which to understand aspects of place. A process of digital editing, compiling and redrawing into these representations allowed critical reflection and explored potential ways to engage with and define a sense of place.

The approach in this research was to use an iterative design process of making to express a sense of place through architectural form. The methodology allowed for and embraced unexpected findings that would not have been possible with a defined research proposition. In this sense, Perry Kulper’s argument that “interests can be derived through graphic exploration” was particularly pertinent (59). A method of ‘research through design’ was employed whereby a proposition could be found and developed through the physical acts of designing (Downton 55, Houssian). Here, the design was not considered the ‘test’ to prove the research (Downton 75). The research is embedded within the design process, where “ideas are augmented through an emerging visual field of study that is discovered in the act of constructing drawings” (Kulper 59). Two primary methods were developed in this thesis: making and narrative, processes by which architectural space and conceptual themes were worked through and represented. This process-based method was fed with site specific and theoretical research as the design developed.

The final representations culminated in speculative mixed-media compositions. The images are, as Smout and Allen describe, “more scenic than orthographic”, containing information about scale and materiality and suggestive of atmosphere and occupation (93). The three experiments developed a formal vocabulary that attempted to convey Lyttelton’s identity in design terms.


07. ‘Making’



08. Exhibition Poster 1990


can be seen in Hammond’s paintings, as a ‘dark chill’. She continues by describing Lyttelton as a place “where stranded Russian sailors wallow in cockroachinfested ships… while trying to woo local women with plastic flowers” (LOG Illustrated). This attracts a certain culture; one in which the people have chosen to live at the fringe of society. Hammond is seen as an iconic figure, an ambassador for the Lyttelton fringe dwellers. Throughout this research, a narrative was constructed around Hammond to portray the culture that is a response to the Lyttelton context. This narrative also forms a brief for the second design experiment: A House for Bill.

The key protagonist for the narrative component of this research was the New Zealand artist, Bill Hammond. This thesis used his paintings and his persona for two purposes: Firstly, his paintings were used as case studies to assess the way he responds to Lyttelton, the place where he resides. Jennifer Hay describes Hammond’s work as a “unique expression of New Zealand’s cultural landscape” (17). Here, Hammond’s paintings were seen as a portrayal of Lyttelton, hinting at hidden, ephemeral characteristics.

Hammond is a recluse who avoids discussing his work (Kraus 6; Simmons and Armstrong 156; Hay 17). Whether this is due to his personality or is the artist crafting mystery around his works, his reticence gave me the freedom to invent a speculative narrative based on his character as a tool to illustrate the atmosphere of Lyttelton. To distinguish between the real person and my speculations, I refer to the real person and his paintings as ‘Hammond’ and the speculative persona I have fabricated as ‘Bill’.

Secondly, his persona was used as an icon to characterise some of the tacit qualities of Lyttelton. The proximity of the port to the residents has a range of effects on Lyttelton’s social fabric (Day 83). Tessa Laird describes one of the effects, which she argues

09. Hammond Melting Moments ll 1999


10. Installation Human Scale

11. Bill’s House Residential Scale

12. Public Wharf City Scale


THESIS STRUCTURE Chapters 2 – 4 follow the introduction by establishing the literary and physical context for the design work. Chapter 2

Literary Context: Discussing Place – provides a theoretical background of place and how architectural practice and discourse have traditionally responded to this concept. Due to the brevity of the thesis, the literary context only addresses the key writers.

Chapter 3

The Place: Lyttelton – describes Lyttelton’s identity. It details the physical landscape and social climate, and elaborates on Hammond’s relationship with Lyttelton.

Chapter 4

Case Studies – investigates four case studies to analyse contemporary methods which represent place through various mediums.

Chapters 2 – 4 are followed by the design work. Each of the following three chapters details the specific aim, method, and process undertaken for each of the three design experiments and analyses the design outcomes with regards to the proposition. Chapter 5

Experiment One – Installation, details the design and construction of a 1:1 art installation. It explores how ephemeral qualities of place may be formalised

Chapter 6

Experiment Two – A House for Bill, explores through a process of making, how Bill might dwell in the Lyttelton landscape.

Chapter 7

Experiment Three – Wharf Dwellers, investigates how architectural form might respond to the disjunction between the town and port, acting to reestablish a place identity for Lyttelton

Chapter 8

Conclusion, reflects on the significance of working within a local idiom and the implications for Lyttelton. It provides a summary of this thesis along with the success and failings of the design outcomes.



13. Laurence Abahart The Prisoners Dream 1


DISCUSSING ‘PLACE’ • The concept of Place • Place verses Space • Architecture and Place • How Architects use Place • Conclusion This chapter provides a literary background for architectural responses to place. First it addresses the recently renewed interest in the concept of place and clarifies the difference between ‘place’ and ‘space’, two distinct but closely related concepts. Two architectural writers are then discussed to establish a literary context for how architecture engages with place. This context provided a framework to analyse the work of two architectural practices in order to review design strategies for formalising place in architecture. This chapter concludes by addressing how representations of place in architectural form can communicate a way of thinking about the local environment.

14. Laurence Abahart The Prisoners Dream 5 Lyttelton Harbour.


(143). An awareness of place can only exist within a global context – space. Escobar further argues: “spatial concepts… have been significantly altered by unprecedented global processes” (141). This has caused a loss of balance between place and space, where a sense of place is becoming lost to the growing hegemony of space and globalisation.

The concept of place The notion of place has been of interest to architects since its introduction by Aristotle. Place (or topos), in his view, was the 'where' dimension in people's relationship to the physical environment, and conjured up a feeling of 'belonging' (Sime 49). Place has subsequently become a pivotal concept in the discussion of the identity and character of an environment.

Creating a sense of place does not entail the erasure of space; it relies on restoring the balance between place and space (Escobar 141; Brislin 9). Gillian Rose comments that it is “necessary to avoid positing an alternative to this vision of global madness which is simply its flipside: an equally promiscuous myth of utopic status, where all is local, time stands still, and conflict is unknown” (22). In this statement, Rose pinpoints the potential downfall of projects that aim to restore a sense of place. By resisting the homogenising processes of globalisation, it is possible to fall into another extreme – that is, an outcome disconnected from the world. In considering this dialectic dilemma, Brislin identifies a potential avenue for architectural exploration. In a search for balance, he asks, what are the qualities of an architecture that can “provide an equilibrium between rootedness and alienation?” (9). His question can be reinterpreted for this thesis as: How might architecture formalise a sense of place and locality in a contemporary context?

Architect Juhani Pallasmaa stated, “cultural identity, a sense of rootedness and belonging is an irreplaceable ground of our very humanity” (18). However, within the context of expanding globalisation driven by technology, mobility, and omnipresent communications, “many hold the intuition that this feeling of belonging is being eroded” (Brislin 9). For some, ‘placelessness’ is becoming the essential feature of the modern condition (Escobar 2001; Aravot 2002; Auge 1995). In the past 40 years, the notion of place has received renewed interest as a means of countering the dislocating effects of globalisation. Arturo Escobar argues that although this interest in place has left the concept a contested subject, in recent discourse, “its contours begin to be appreciated” (143).

Place vs. space

Architecture and place Due to the emphasis on the experiential features of place (its ‘subjective’ and ‘lived’ aspects), the notion of place became a natural ally of phenomenology (Casey 683). This is also true for architecture, which is historically described as being intertwined with the experience of place (Eggener 228). Whilst phenomenology is not always referenced explicitly in discourses about place, Kate Nesbitt argues that architectural vocabulary concerning place often draws from that tradition (338, 456). The following discussion investigates two key writers and architects, considering how they incorporate place in their work. They each develop an approach to the question: how might architecture formalise a sense of place and locality in a contemporary context?

The notion of place provides an important alternative to considerations of space (Michel De Certeau 1984; Edward Casey 1996, 2009). This hinges on Edward Casey’s definition in which space is the more general and abstract of the two concepts, and is the “encompassing volumetric void in which things are positioned.” Casey contrasts this with place, which refers to the immediate environment of lived experiences: “An arena of action that is at once physical and historical, social and cultural” (683). Casey’s definition is extended by Escobar who argues: “The global is often equated with space, capital, history and agency, and the local with place, labour, and tradition“ (141). Escobar adds that historically, places were conceived as momentary subdivisions of a universal and homogeneous space


Christian Norberg-Schulz (Placemaking)

Vittorio Gregotti Vittorio Gregotti alludes specifically to the relationship between form and landscape. These ideas are pertinent to this thesis because of its focus on revealing the characteristics of place through architectural form. Vittorio Gregotti’s Essays, ‘The Form of the Territory’ (1981) and ‘Territory and Architecture’ (1985), address how formal interventions may reveal the ‘poetic truth’ of a place. Gregotti suggests a method of modification, whereby one part of the environment is altered and in turn transforms how we perceive the whole environment (Territory and Architecture 342). A pivotal difference in Gregotti’s approach to that of Norberg-Schulz is his acknowledgement “that the construction of a landscape is part of the competence specific to the architect” (The Form of the Territory 11). In other words, any built intervention will alter the ‘ensemble,’ or collection of parts, that creates the totality of the landscape.

Christian Norberg-Schulz is discussed in this research as he specifically recognises architecture as a medium that can heighten people’s experience of place. His advocacy of place in design was central to the growth of communicative design, placemaking strategies, and Critical Regionalism (Larice and Macdonald 125). Norberg-Schulz espoused a phenomenological theory of place that emphasises the quality of a person's existential existence or 'being in the world' (Sime 50). ‘The Phenomenon of Place’ (1976), along with his other works, draws on Martin Heidegger’s notes on dwelling. Norberg-Schulz interprets dwelling as suggesting more than simply ‘shelter’. He states: “[dwelling] implies that the spaces where life occurs are places, in the true sense of the word” (Genius Loci 5). A place is defined by Norberg-Schulz as 'space plus character'. He believes that the creation of these places can be achieved through the practice of architecture: “the existential purpose of building is therefore to make a site become a place, that is to uncover the meanings potentially present in the environment” (Genius Loci 18). Norberg-Schulz suggests that architecture offers ways of communicating aspects of the environment otherwise unavailable to its occupants.

Fundamental to this position is Gregotti’s understanding of the landscape as “the sum total of all things” (Territory and Architecture 340). This interpretation is in line with contemporary descriptions where the word ‘landscape’ is not simply a geographical term but a metaphor. For example, Jorgen Deh’s suggests the term ‘industrial landscape’ transforms any romping ground for the ravages of industry into an object of aesthetic sensibility (qtd. in Smout Allen 6, 7; also See Casey, Representing Place 6). Gregotti suggests an awareness of the landscape as an ‘ensemble’ that allows the designer to conceive a place as a “system of relations and distances, as the measurement of intervals rather that isolated objects” (Territory and Architecture 342). In this sense, the form of architecture can be designed with respect to how it ‘modifies’ the environment. By perceiving the site as a specific environment of relations, designers can generate architectural interventions that aid in revealing characteristics of place.

The concepts advocated by Norberg-Schulz, combined with writing by urban writers such as Jane Jacobs and Kevin Lynch, formed the basis of ‘placemaking’. Placemaking developed as a response to late-capitalist urban problems, offering ideas to “re-establish quality of place in the public realm” (Aravot 201, 204). The fundamental concept was to explore the nature of the identity of a place so it could be made more tangible through architecture and urban planning. As Norberg-Schulz put it, architecture should “make visible, differentiate and ‘concretise’ the physical character and essence of places” (qtd. In Larice and Macdonald 126). By doing so, he suggests architecture will bring people closer to the places they occupy (Phenomenon of Place 136). In placemaking, the generative role of architecture is to create a ‘sense of place’ by heightening occupant’s awareness of the particular or unique characteristics of the surrounding environment.


buildings (Ando 461). Here, he focuses on how architectural elements (walls, paths etc.) contribute to future occupation in relation to the resources of a site, how the sunlight flushes across a wall, or how you might dip a hand in a stream by a path (461). Secondly, his architecture acts to transform how we perceive a place or landscape through built intervention – reflecting formal characteristics of the landscape in the architectural form. Ando suggests this is not to provide an abstraction or reflection of the ‘real’ but rather to attempt to reorganise the “real around an intrinsic viewpoint” (459).

Tadao Ando Tadao Ando considers that “the purpose of architecture is basically the construction of place” (qtd. in Nesbit 456). His architecture and writing are relevant to this thesis because they act to find and draw out the formal characteristics of a site. Ando conceives the rapport between architecture and nature in a similar way to Gregotti. Through modification of the landscape, or by adding an architectural intervention, both the way we understand and occupy a place can be altered. In ‘Towards New Horizons in Architecture’ (1991) Ando states: “the presence of architecture – regardless of its self-contained character – inevitably creates a new landscape” (461). His phrase ‘new landscape’ is readily interpreted as a double entendre. Firstly, the statement implies a new building of ‘self-contained character’, and therefore a new place of constructed occupation. Secondly, ‘new landscape’ implies the surrounding environment has been modified. In this sense, the architectural intervention alters how people perceive the whole place, thus creating a new landscape.

Smout Allen Landscape architects Mark Smout and Laura Allen employ a design process that seeks to exploit the environmental resources a location has to offer. Smout Allen are interested in how future inhabitants will experience, and be ‘sensitised’ to the place (Bartlett). What is particularly useful for this research is the method they apply to uncover these idiosyncrasies. Sharing a connectedness to the landscape with Ando, Smout Allen state “the landscape is both the site and the source of inspiration and invention” (Bartlett). Their recent work could be described as a form of environmental architecture because it involves the responsiveness of architecture to the natural landscape. However, where Ando is more focussed on the formal eccentricities of landscapes, Smout Allen emphasise the ephemeral characteristics and user experience of the place.

This position aligns closely with Gregotti’s view, where modification of the landscape “reveals an awareness of being a part of a pre-existing whole, [by] changing one part of the system [the architect] transforms the whole” (342). Like Gregotti, Ando recognises that a building, which is partly a response to the place, in turn also modifies that place. He suggests, “this implies the necessity of discovering the architecture which the site itself is seeking” (461). This consideration of designing for what a site is ‘seeking’ is also discussed by Martin Hogue. He argues that “we traditionally expect the site to be that place which awaits intervention” (55) Hogue contrasts this with the approach of land artist Robert Smithson, who understands the site as “where a piece should be but isn’t” (qtd in Hogue 55). In this, both Smithson and Ando imply that there are inherent clues within the site that may be formally drawn out.

In ‘Augmented Landscapes’ (2007), Smout Allen discuss how, through their architecture, “the physicality of site and the processes of environmental transformation are exploited” (7). They offer an interpretation of how place might be formalised through a multivalent method that does not neglect interpretative approaches such as fictional events and narratives. Smout Allen argue that these approaches permeate our collective perception of the environment: “they trigger an emotive rather than analytic response and profound reverence for the complexity of nature” (Bartlett). By employing a method of ‘making’, they combine examinations of the existing site with speculated narratives and events (Drawing Architecture

Ando’s architecture draws the clues of the site out in two ways. Firstly, he uses architectural elements to “derive the utmost life” from the setting of a


15. Kite Farm 2011 Smout Allen employ a method of modelling, photography and drawing to uncover the intrinsic features of a place.

93; Augmented Landscapes 7). Making for Smout Allen incorporates a range of mediums, from modelling to photography, all of which create visual representations (Augmented Landscapes 7). Analytic recordings of place alongside ideas of future occupation are expressed visually and are able to be extrapolated into their architectural form. Through this process, their work allows tangible recordings, ephemeral states and fictional events to coexist.

surroundings a sense of nature illuminated” (Smout Allen Augmented Landscapes 7). The programmes and the resulting architectural interventions make occupants aware of the surrounding natural flux and prevalent conditions. These would otherwise go unnoticed due to their ephemeral nature.

CONCLUSION The writers and architects discussed in this chapter all contribute to an understanding of place. Place encompasses the physical landscape, ephemeral environment, and atmosphere of a location to create a distinct character of locality. Because the homogenising effects of globalisation are diminishing our sense of belonging, many see architecture as a valuable discipline to return a sense of place. Architecture provides the opportunity to enhance its occupant’s awareness of the ephemeral and experiential qualities of a place through architectural form. This research draws primarily from an understanding of how Smout Allen embody and represent place. They employ a method of making to find qualities or resources unique to a place and expose them through architectural form.

Smout Allen also recognise the role of architecture in altering how people perceive a place. They suggest, “architecture can be a generative agent for our sensitisation of the environment” (Bartlett). This understanding gives the architect some control in drawing forth and exposing the ephemeral characteristics of a place and can be seen in a number of their works. Smout Allen respond to an eroding cliff edge with sliding huts on skids; to waterlogged areas with an agricultural programme designed to spray rainbows into the air and to a region with thermal currents with a kite farm (Augmented Landscapes 31, 35, 55, Drawing Architecture 88). In these works, “the ephemeral character of the environment is reflected in the solidity of the artefacts that inhabit it as they take on local specificity and lend to their



16. Ship Departing the inner-harbour 2014



• Physical Location • Social Climate • Bill Hammond

This chapter provides an analysis of Lyttelton, where the three design experiments are located. Firstly it looks at Lyttelton as a physical location to situate and inform the design work. It then addresses how its distinct landscape has informed a polarised social climate of the town. It concludes by clarifying Bill Hammond’s relationship to the place.

18. Satellite Image Lyttelton Harbour and Christchurch


19. Artist unknown Lyttelton Harbour ca 1870

Half way down the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island there is a large peninsula, well wooded and indented with lovely bays and inlets full of shadow and sunlight… mountains rise steeply from [the] waters, green in spring but mostly tawny colour that holds the varying atmospheric transformations and takes on added hues with the sunrise and the sunset, with the mist or with the clouds (Margaret Hunter, 1929). Within this peninsula lies Lyttelton, the port settlement of Christchurch. This small town is nestled into the northern edge of a drowned crater. It faces the harbour with its back protected by the surrounding hills and streets that run steeply up into these hills. Access the town, which is topographically contained by the hills and sea, is limited to the sea or via tunnels.. Although the road tunnel, which opened in 1964, provides a direct link with Christchurch, Lyttelton’s social fabric retains a distinct character, “inextricably linked to the port” (LPC 79).

Lyttelton is defined by its role as a port. The place became a gateway to the Canterbury Plains because its sheltered topography provided safe anchorage for the first immigrant ships to arrive in the South Island (Baines et al. 9). These ships arrived soon after an official proclamation that established Lyttelton as a recognised port in 1849. At the time of the proclamation, work on the harbour began with the construction of a 45m long jetty (LPC). The port remains the economic backbone of Lyttelton, responsible for the majority of international trade in the South Island and a portion of domestic trade for Christchurch (Port Lyttelton Plan).


Over the years, the port has undergone changes in order to increase efficiency, and cater for the growth of Canterbury and new developments in shipping. The reclaimation of land to provide flat areas for cargo handling was inevitable, and added value to the port (LPC). The port continued to grow, and with it grew the disjunction between the residents of Lyttelton and the water’s edge. Today the port exists as a one hundred metre wide band of publicly inaccessible, reclaimed land that completely separates the township from its foreshore. 20.

Town Centre




21. Satellite image Lyttelton from above

Sites of Intervention

Privatised port zone Diamond Harbour



22. Lyttelton Harbour Mountains and sea contain the town.



Taylor Baines describes how “the last 160 years [of] social change in the town has been closely linked to developments at the port” (9). In Lyttelton, the littoral zone has been a place of activity and the primary attribute accounting for the occupation of the surrounding landscape by Maori and settlers alike. Christchurch City Council has outlined the importance of the waterfront to the town: “Lyttelton is a place connected to the world via the sea. It is a place of arrival and departure and a place of discovery from its Maori past to the present day” (14).

The following description describes my personal observations of Lyttelton and positions Hammond within this narrative to set a scene for the design work: Due to the proximity of the town and the port (with its associated wharfie culture), Lyttelton has developed an underbelly. The underbelly is explicit in the port as it is physically manifested. However, as the underbelly enters the town it becomes a more implicit part of the place. This creates a feeling of unease; never quite knowing what happens behind the many closed doors. This is further depicted in an early account of Lyttelton’s social climate, ‘The History of Early Lyttelton from a Social Aspect’ published in 1929. Margaret Hunter describes a series of ‘menacing’ events such as hangings in the Lyttelton Gaol, the “atmosphere of bustle” in tavern life, and the opium trade (187). This thesis develops a fascination I have

The proximity of the port and the town has had a range impacts on the social fabric of the place (Day 83). It provides a working backdrop, along with the activity, noise, and traffic that goes with a functioning Port (Bairns 13). However, as detailed earlier, the port has also had a tacit effect on the atmosphere of the place.

23. The port zone operates on a vastly different scale to the town – its wharves are the length of Lyttelton’s main street and ships at berth dwarf the largest buildings in town.


with this side of Lyttelton – the dichotomy and coinhabitation of the people and the port. I believe it is this dichotomy that gives the town greater character and vitality than the current “gentrification” the town has suffered following the Christchurch earthquakes (Baines et al 17). The underbelly is an intangible characteristic that contributes to Lyttelton’s identity. When it is described rather than experienced, the mystery and romanticism can become lost. In this thesis, the iconic Lyttelton inhabitant, Bill Hammond, is employed to help express some of Lyttelton’s intangible character. Described by Justin Paton as a ‘fringe dwelling maverick’ (8) he can be seen as a protagonist for the residents who live in Lyttelton and for its embedded history as a working town with its associated subcultures. Hammond’s paintings, and also his elusive persona, provide a representation of Lyttelton’s ‘cultural Landscape’ (Hay 17). Both his paintings and persona are responses to the same local conditions that I describe.







27. Smout Allen Techno-Nature 2010

CASE STUDIES • Bill Hammond

b. 1947

• Bill Hammond - Watching for Buller


• Bill Hammond - The Fall of Icarus


• Simon Twose - White House


• Smout Allen


- Wet Lands

This chapter analysed four case studies to review strategies for representing place. First, a brief discussion of Hammond’s work established how his works respond to place. This was followed by examining two specific paintings by Hammond that addressed how he has represented place, but also portrayed Lyttelton’s character. A project by architect Simon Twose provided a local example of architecture that represents place. Finally, a building by Smout Allen follows to study the application of their methodology.

28. Hammond Watching for Buller Detail, 1993



or intimate physical state than about… attachment to the land” (14). In Hammond’s ‘Placemakers’ series, it’s not necessarily the particularities of landscape, but the particularities of place that evoke his personal agenda. The emotive nature of his agenda necessarily affects the attitude of the viewer to the content the paintings depict. Hammond’s paintings, according to Paton, “continuously, furiously… restage the commonplace, unhouse the ordinary, and return us, changed, to the places we dwell in” (8). Hammond translates his personal understanding of place through his paintings which condition how we feel and respond to our surroundings.

Following an expedition to the Auckland Islands in 1991, Hammond’s work changed from small groups of figures striking poses of “manic and paranoid hyperactivity” (Smith 48) to paintings with a melancholic beauty. His early works were described as ‘regional’ (Smart 40, Pauli 85, McDougall 3) for including the Canterbury landscape; these works displayed a sensitive engagement with place. Pricilla Pitts suggests, they “seem more about an emotional

29. Robin Morrison Bill Hammond in his Studio 1991


Hammond’s work is often read as a general reference to the New Zealand condition (Kraus 6), with the specificity of its Lyttelton references being lost on those who haven’t experienced the place. Art critic Tessa Laird describes “The obscure Southern port”. She suggests Hammond chose Lyttelton “for its dark chill, where people light fires throughout summer [and] where a former leper colony is considered a nice place for a Sunday outing” (Laird). Laird further suggests that by comprehending the internal complexities of Lyttelton one will gain a deeper insight into Hammond’s agenda. Even Hammond’s wry choice of title: ‘The Placemakers’, hints at where his priorities lie. Hammond’s paintings speak of an intimate knowledge of Lyttelton. Upon returning from his expedition to the Auckland Islands, he observed a tension between 20th century life and the Lyttelton landscape. His subsequent paintings convey an intriguing relationship between bird-like inhabitants and the landscapes they occupy. Hammond took on an activist role, examining what it means to dwell in this place and communicated his position to the public through painting. The following two case studies expose a sense of place through the eyes of Hammond.

30. Hammond I heat up, I can’t cool down 1985. An example of Hammond’s work prior to his expedition to the Auckland Islands.


31. Hammond Watching for Buller 1993


LYTTELTON THROUGH HAMMOND’S EYES ‘Watching for Buller’ (1993) has been a key generator throughout this design research as an examination of how people occupy Lyttelton. Lyttelton is wedged between two opposing conditions; on one side lie mountains and natural context, and to the other, the privatised industrial shoreline. ‘Watching for Buller’ depicts clothed, bird-like figures inhabiting this liminal zone between nature and industry. The birds stand on a serrated cliff top, looking off into darkness across the water. Allan Smith argues: “these cliff tops, jagged littoral borders, are signs and sites of change. They dramatise the state of marginality, of inbetweenness that the bird-like figures represent” (Smith 53). The cliff edge is reminiscent of the displaced datum line of Lyttelton’s foreshore. In this sense the birds can be seen as metaphors for the occupants of Lyttelton, witnesses to what lies, inaccessible, beyond the port walls. Lyttelton is a place of arrivals and departures, connected to the sea. However, here, the port walls contain the occupants. The bird-like figures, their watching, their waiting, their presence, all signify resistance to the pervading port industries. They act as threshold figures and gatekeepers who preside over the landscape. Their attitudes, gestures and touch convey a sense of tenderness for and protection of each other, indicating that they’re a community. The painting is about the fundamental connectedness of the occupants to their site and to each other, attributes that define Lyttelton and its heritage. ‘Watching for Buller’ communicates a particular way of understanding the Lyttelton environment. It exposes a sense of place through the eyes of Hammond.

32. Lyttelton Port and Township The displaced datum line of Lytteltons foreshore disconnects the occupants from the waters edge.


‘The Fall of Icarus’ (1995) captures and intensifies the emotive qualities of Lyttelton. Unlike Watching for Buller, this painting utilises atmosphere, mystery and ambiguity to convey mood. The painting is otherworldly, depicting Lyttelton as it might once have been. The strange bird-like figures are perched in a forest above fiery volcanoes like guardians defending a final outpost against some threat. Features in the painting resemble actual features of the Lyttelton landscape, and once Hammond set the scene, he explores the mood of Lyttelton to establish a sense of place. A number of features in this painting allude to the Lyttelton context. The fiery volcano in the sea, is compositionally similar to the way Quail Island rests in the middle of Lyttelton harbour, as well as Lyttelton itself being within the crater of a volcano. The multiple horizon lines are reminiscent of both the New Zealand condition and the hills of Lyttelton. These thresholds, combined with the varying tones of emerald green, create an ambiguity between land, sea and sky. Lyttelton’s sunsets are similar when the harbour reflects the sky and the Port Hills create multiple horizon lines of a single pervading colour.


Spatially, Hammond uses the birds as vertical elements to break through the horizon thresholds. By doing so, the birds become guardians of the land, more engaged with what lies beyond. The birds clearly belong to the landscapes in which they reside but there is also a disengagement between the two. This renewed relationship between the birds creates a language of absence despite the painting being populated. Caughey suggests: “we are powerless observers of a strange reality as whatever it is that threatens or eludes these creatures remains out of view” (W.D. Hammond). This pervading sense of the unknown creates a benign but slightly sinister mood that I feel reflects Lyttelton’s evasive underbelly. ‘The Fall of Icarus’ highlights the importance of atmosphere when considering representations of place. When we view the painting, we can almost smell the moisture in the forest and touch the damp surfaces. Hammond’s painting combines what is real with his own vision, creating an alternative reality with a heightened experience of the environment. In my analysis, the quality of speculation was crucial to this research because it liberated the design process from only engaging with the tangible environment


29 34. Hammond The Fall of Icarus 1995


Auckland’s identity in design terms; as a material that has certain properties and can be experimented with and used – to make something from” (Twose 3).

The White-House was designed by Simon Twose in 1999. It can be understood as a formal representation of the Auckland condition. For Twose, the design process is pivotal in connecting his architecture with place.

Programme to imagine occupation Twose’ understanding of Auckland’s aesthetic identity informed how the programme was drawn into the design. In the brief for the White-House, aspects of domesticity were contrasted with the additional commercial function of the client’s business. Twose’ observation of Auckland was subject to these programmatic pressures. He describes how the everyday actions of the client were recorded and “accommodated in curved freehand drawings and a curved building” (10). The thinness of the buckling walls became necessarily responsive to the programme. What began as reasonably logical orthogonal plans quickly evolved into undulating spaces. Twose goes so far as to suggest that they “oddly, began to resemble the Auckland Isthmus” – further reiterating his understanding of place. (Figure 35)

Representing Place The architecture of the White-House reflects and embodies the urban condition of its location. When regarding Auckland as an ‘aesthetic phenomenon’, Twose argues that it translates to a thin surface, having a similar proportional depth to A4 paper (4). This metaphoric observation continued through the design process, into the architectural form, with the building made of thin, white and buckled surfaces (figure 37). Even the edges are detailed to give an impression of paper thinness and insubstantiality. In this way, Twose’ architecture “attempts to understand

35. Simon Twose Plan Development Walls curve around programme as required.


Design process The design process provided a method to almalgamate observations of the environment with the wishes of the clients. Twose describes how the design methodology “was to respond to these desires and allow the building to be moulded by them” (12). His approach relied on hand-drawings and models, as well as engaging physically in the construction process. Through this iterative process Twose describes how “observations of the city are seen through and folded into a design” (3). The conceived thinness of Auckland became source material for the design of the White-House. This observation was explored through hand drawings that pushed and pulled parts of the house in response to the programme (Twose 12).

36. Twose White-House

37. Twose White-House Interior



(Drawing Architecture 90). In this, the design approach highlights their own observation of the current condition and uncovers how architecture might actively participate within it.

Smout Allen use a similar process to exploit the intrinsic features of a place by applying a method of ‘making’ (Augmented Landscapes 7). Due to their emphasis on landscape architecture, these are generally natural characteristics of the environment. This is illustrated by their ‘Wet Lands: Architectural Waterscapes and Soft Infrastructures’ (2011) research project for London’s Thames Estuary.

Programme to imagine occupation Smout Allen select programme by considering the distinctive resources of a place. The ‘Wet Lands’ project is centred on London’s limited water resources, and considers the design of a hydrological infrastructure mixed with housing. Due to the emphasis on water and location at the edge of the Thames, a programme is chosen to celebrate the “physical and meteorological properties, and even its immaterial qualities” of water (Drawing Architecture 90). Smout Allen merged the additional programme of an agricultural landscape with their architecture. Here, “the hydraulic power of water is deployed to lift whole fields away from flood zones… enabling the architecture to act as a register of its surroundings” (Smout Allen, Drawing Architecture 90). This programme also sprays the exhaust water into the air, forming rainbows that manifest the intangible characteristics of the place. The programme in Smout Allen’s work is employed to aid in ‘augmenting’ the landscape. They carefully choose a programme that intensifies how people will experience the prevailing condition of the place.

Representing Place Rather than aesthetisising a metaphoric observation (in the way Twose designed the White-House), Smout Allen’s approach relies on intervening in the landscape. It utilises the existing environmental conditions as a design catalyst. The design is an active process of exaggerating and moderating the dynamic aspects of nature. Smout Allen describe the ‘Wet Lands’ project as a large and spreading architectural landscape. It contains “dense housing that is sunk into the ground… encircled by reservoirs to manage excess water and structure the natural catchment… this is coupled with architecture that is essentially porous and responsive to its fluvial surroundings”

38. Smout Allen Modelling the Wet Lands. The paper and card models are constructed directly from duplicate copies of sketches to reimagine place in three dimensions


Design process Smout and Allen describe how drawing and modelling for them is instrumental in establishing a relationship with place. This method of investigation has the dual function of examining as well as narrating the qualities of place, with a focus on “site, behaviour, and events”, rather than representations of static space and material. (Smout Allen Augmented Landscapes 7). Ideas are manifested and overwritten through the ‘palimpsestic’ nature of drawing. In the ‘Wet Lands’ project, Smout Allen’s drawing of place became formalised by printing the drawings onto card and folding them up into three dimensions. This created “the space implicit in, or inspired by, the drawings” (Drawing Architecture 93). This process has the dual functions of examining as well as narrating the particularities of place. It allows detailed examinations of place, through drawings and documentary photography, to become formalised into architectural space through a process of making.



41. Smout Allen Sketch Studies of landforms and watercourses.



• Installation • A House for Bill • The Public Wharf




Installation Detail 43.


INSTALLATION • Aim • Method • Process • Design Outcome • Reflection

The first of three design experiments aimed to investigate how ephemeral characteristics might be materialised. To do this, a 1:1 scale installation was designed and constructed.

42. Installation SKETCH Model


of the problem.” They argue this method is especially relevant where one hopes to provoke “spontaneous” and “serendipitous” findings (Bartlett).

AIM This first experiment tested how the design process might help discover and formalise ephemeral characteristics. The final design aimed to embody these characteristics, creating an installation that incited users to experience a momentary sense of place.

Through scale-less hand modelling, the enquiry was pursued through an iterative, inquisitive and imaginative process. This process sought to draw out ‘experiential’ qualities, which Casey emphasises when describing what creates a sense place (683). Photography was used concurrently with modelling. The visual representations provided a way of concurrently seeing the design progression and critiquing the effectiveness of decisions. Finally, a hybrid method was used to develop how the design processes might be constructed. Iterative testing between 3D CAD modelling and physical modelling allowed a complex structure to be developed. Throughout this process, the physical characteristics of Lyttelton were drawn on to inform the design tectonic.

METHOD The success of the first experiment was determined by what could be uncovered through the design process. Smout and Allen suggest that design through making can be considered “a haptic experience where the physical act of piecing together ideas… allows one to come into close contact with the very matter


44. Making the Installation


PROCESS • Parallax • Folds • Material Tests • Digital • Making

PARALLAX The initial series of models tested the notion of parallax in an attempt to create circumstances where the movement of the body would activate the work. Varying folds and proportions were tested by photographing the model from different angles. This revealed the most effective strategies for making an object appear different when viewed from various angles.

45. Parallax Sequence





49. Testing the Fold White card



FOLDS The idea that an object might appear different depending on where it was viewed from was then tested in relation to the scale of a person. The folds from the previous tests were manipulated to define space around a body. These forms created places around the installation that alluded to interiority and exteriority.

50. Screen Scaling the fold


MATERIAL TESTS Material tests explored how the contrasting spatial encounters might be emphasised. In previous tests, it became apparent that an armature was needed to support the folded screen (figure 47). Taking inspiration from a box kite, where there is a co-dependence of the surface and structure, card frames were wrapped in tissue. Toluene dope was used to tighten the tissue. This created a taut translucent surface that could take on the folded shape of the screen. To stop the card warping with the dope, space frames were used to provide a more rigid support. By photographing these models under various lighting conditions, shadows that played on the translucent surface were created. When lit from the front, the object appeared to have a substantial volume. When lit from the back, through the armature, the thinness and delicacy of the tissue became apparent. The layers of silhouettes rendered both an indeterminate surface and the illusion of depth on an otherwise flat screen. These unexpected qualities were taken forward into the next series of tests.



53. Ludwig Wittgenstein Box Kite Glossop, 1910.



55. Tissue screen test Shoji paper with dope applied to the surface 30 x 30 mm




DIGITAL The design was manipulated in a digital environment to develop the armature. Structures reminiscent of the port were drawn in to help develop the tectonic. The final armature has a co-dependence between the surface and structure similar to the construction of a ships hull.


59. 60.

56. screen test 57. Cranes over Lyttelton Port 58. Ship hull with Lyttelton behind 59. Ship construction 60. Tissue Screen 61. Armature development




62. Installation Elevations


63. Exploded components






64. Armature

67. Armature Detail


68. Doping the tissue surface


69. Installation during construction



The installation took on a duplicitous nature as it harmonised contrasting tectonics within a single entity. When viewed from the ‘front’, the form folded around the body creating a sense of interiority. In this way, the structure can only be read as a shadow falling across the frosted white surface (figure 72). These thin surfaces are contrasted with the depth of the structure on the other side. Viewed from the opposite side, the structural grid becomes indeterminable from its own shadows falling on the surface behind (figure 77). The existence of a ‘front’ and ‘back’ was difficult to pinpoint from different viewpoints due to the fluid shift between hard structure and soft tissue.

DESIGN OUTCOME The final design is a taut translucent screen folded across a skeletal armature. As the installation is traversed, the folds created varying spatial encounters. Places of apparent enclosure and exclosure appear from different viewpoints. These were formed by the reflection of light cast over the folded surface and revealed spatial possibilities that did not really exist. This encouraged people to physically engage with the installation and challenged its presence as a static object.




72. Light falling on the screen 73 - 76. Installation details







77. Installation View from the back

REFLECTION You must physically engage with the installation to understand it. The observer must move around it, see it under different lighting, and hear the sound of the taught tissue surface when it is touched, and even smell the dope emanating from its surface. These ephemeral qualities are what Casey describes as ‘lived’ - they can only be understood through physical engagement. By incorporating these lived and experiential characteristics, the installation created a sense of place. Through this exploratory kind of design, the stages recorded throughout the making process were just as insightful as the product. Through the design of the installation, I gained an understanding into how a design led enquiry may lead to unexpected outcomes. The design process allowed these chance outcomes to become accentuated. This iterative process also meant sources of inspiration that were outside of the initial aim could feed in to the design, such as tectonics inspired by Lyttelton’s context. The installation was also useful because it established a formal vocabulary, sensitive to ephemeral characteristics, which carried through to inform the following architectural experiments.




79. Inside Bill’s House


A HOUSE FOR BILL • Aim • Method • Programme • Site • Process • Bill’s House • Reflection The second experiment was a house designed for Bill Hammond. The design is predominantly oriented around Hammond’s paintings. The paintings provoke an emotional response because they confront the issue of how people dwell in the Lyttelton landscape. They also evoke the particular sense of strangeness and atmosphere that surrounds Lyttelton and some of its inhabitants.

78. Bill’s House


Hammond’s paintings, evidence collected from his abandoned house and small insights gained from various photographs and writing depicting fragments of Bill’s life. The narrative was primarily useful at the beginning of the design process to establish a specific programme.

AIM Located on the fringe between urban and hinterland, this design experiment investigated how Bill, an iconic figure of Lyttelton, might inhabit the site. The strangeness and atmosphere of Hammond’s paintings was distilled through the design process and ultimately embodied in the architectural outcome. Consequently, the design shows how Hammond might dwell in the Lyttelton landscape.

The programme was developed through an iterative process of making. Taking cues from Hammond’s painting, photography acted as a transformative tool to add atmosphere and spatial depth to the models. These pictorial representations combined the scale and context of the real word with speculations of strange architectural form to see how the house might become a part of the landscape. Finally these representations were drawn into both by hand and digitally to explore how the forms created in the earlier stages would contain the narrative-based programme.

METHOD The design used the same methods detailed in the introduction. A narrative method helped to make a shift from solely aesthetic motives to considerations of Bill and his connection with the place. The narrative was constructed from an analysis of


80. Test Models Forming Bill’s House



BILL’S OLD HOUSE The design research has been informed by the way Bill lives within the Lyttelton context as well as the painting techniques he employed. The following images depict a house he left abandoned long ago.

81. Robin Morrison Bill Hammond in his Studio 1991


The photograph on the opposing page shows Bill sitting in his home in 1991. The photograph below depicts the same room 25 years later. Although Bill’s physical presence is absent, his character is forever etched into the building surfaces.

82. Bill’s Abandoned House 2014


When I arrived at Bill’s abandoned house, doors had been left swinging and the surrounding bush was slowly encroaching. The words ‘Local only’ were spray painted by the front door. This seemed appropriate upon entering and seeing that Bill had used the walls of the house as a canvas for his own work. Casual programmatic overlaps between living and painting spaces, as well as a formally separated outhouse, gave small insights into the way Bill had lived there. Boundaries between living and working, interior and exterior were all ambiguous. Nothing seemed precious to Bill, no space or object was prioritised over anything else. The evidence collected from Bill’s old house, coupled with his paintings, provided the material that informed the programme for his new house.

83. Bill’s Front Door ‘Local Only’




Inside Bill’s House Wall Surfaces


86. Bill’s Worm Taxonomy

87. 88.


68 Inside Bill’s House Observing lighting conditions in Bill’s Lounge / Studio


SITE The site for the house is located on the fringe of the town, between urban and hinterland. To one side lies a vast landscape of dense bush, to the other, roads and housing are scattered through a gulley. The site is situated high above the sea with views that extend over the township and port, across the harbour to the island and beyond.

91. View from the Site

90. SITE Location


92. The Site


Between urban and hinterland

PROCESS • A Habitable Edge • Extending the Forest • Form • Model-rama • Drawing


93. Site Contours

The first series of models tested how the liminal space between urban and hinterland might be mediated by architecture. The first consideration for creating an architectural boundary was the comprehension of relativity – an understanding of what is on either side, and how the architectural form related to this. Through these tests the conception of the house formed as an ‘extension of the forest’ into the town. This tied into the narrative of Bill as it draws from how he left his old house. The bush encroaching on the abandoned house and the formally separated outhouse blurred the boundaries between interior and exterior. Through the concept of extending the forest, the house became fragmented and blurred amongst the real bush. SURVEY


94. Boundary Tests Investigating how architecture might respond to fringe conditions - between urban and hinterland







EXTENDING THE FOREST Modelling the ‘forest’ tested the material and spatial characteristics of the concept and informed how the programme of Bill’s house might become fragmented across the site through a series of tower-like structures.

95. 96.




99. 98. CASE STUDY MODEL Investigating the architecture of Bolle & Wilson for their use of form, void and penetrations. Their architecture is of interest here as it takes on an anthropomorphic characteristic, surveying its surroundings

100. Bolles & Wilson Cosmos Commercial Building 1989






MAKING BILLS HOUSE Iterative modelling was used to explore what formal characteristics might emulate the forest model and how the vertical structures would be inhabited.


103. Looking through the model-rama



104. The Model-rama

A 1:200 physical site model was cut from card as a base for iterative modelling that could respond to the site context. These tests were set up in a diorama-like environment. Images of the site were placed behind the model to create an environmental backdrop. The forms of the models were then tested and developed in relation to each other and to the landscape.

105. Site Model

Photographing this ‘Model-rama’ was a critical tool in creating an environmental character, and to distil the sense of atmosphere in Hammond’s paintings. The flattening of the Model-rama into pictorial representations challenged the understanding of the space left over, that is, the area that is left out of the form. Working in a similar mode to Ando, this redirected the emphasis to the contribution of the architecture in redefining a new landscape.


106. Looking through the model-rama




107. Peeling ceiling inside Bill’s ABANDONED house No attempt was made to hide the material qualities of the making process. The masking tape, rough card edges and patches added a tectonic to the models that reflected the kind of grittiness and materiality characteristic of Lyttelton.







112. Hammond The Fall of Icarus Detail, 1995

115. Drawing into the model Analogue


116. Drawing into the model Digital

OCCUPATION The drawn images sought to represent occupation amidst the ephemeral environment. The mixed media approach provided a visual differentiation between the new and the existing. The existing environment is depicted as mysterious and atmospheric. The emerald greens, ambiguity and apparently infinite depth are reminiscent of Hammond’s paintings. This is contrasted with black and white rendered interiors drawn forth via the narrative. The drawings depict the interiors, describing how the structures will be inhabited. The abstract geometric forms were activated by representations of human life (fires, baths, furnishings and vehicles).


117. DEVELOPING THE OUTHOUSE A final series of models followed the drawing process to develop the forms more specifically in response to the programme of each tower. Parallax was employed again to create a dynamic relationship between the occupant and the towers, as the occupant traverse the landscape.




119. A House for Bill


BILL’S HOUSE The final design is of three tower-like structures spaced across the site as if an extension of the forest. One of the important pressures in the design process was Bill’s desire to merge home and work life. The programme, both work and living, is dispersed through these building fragments. The structure to the west is a more conventional architecture of enclosed spaces. It relates to the street and contains most of the living space. The two to the east are nestled back into the forest. They are architectural canvases, drawing from analysis of lighting in Bill’s abandoned house; they are designed to be open to the sky to channel light down into the interior space. One contains an outhouse, the other a painting studio. Like Hammond’s birds, these towers take on anthropomorphic qualities to become a family cluster of buildings.

120. Plan



121. The Outhouse

122. Living Quarters and Studio






126. Outhouse Section.





128. Painting Studio Section.





130. Living Quarters Section.







REFLECTION ‘A House for Bill’ provided an examination into how a Lyttelton occupant might dwell in their local landscape. Underlying this was the imperative to create an architecture that would appear to belong amidst Hammond’s painted world. The sense of strangeness depicted throughout his works was distilled and represented in the atmospheric landscape that surrounds the house. The architecture was designed to relate to this environment. It took on anthropomorphic qualities, allowing the forms to be read as a system of relationships rather than as isolated objects. This emphasised the importance of the landscape, and consequently the place, as a part of the house. Using the Model-rama helped to achieve the relationship of form to topography by combining the real landscape with the proposed architecture, and the atmosphere and mood of Hammond’s paintings. These images conveyed an understanding of the place and allowed design decisions to be validated by seeing how the architecture modified the landscape. The narrative methodology proved to be useful in linking the programme to the place. Formal geometries derived and developed through the method detailed earlier were able to be activated by considering what spatial qualities would best align with Bill’s requirements. Here, geometric form and daily human activity were fused through the narrative. The process of designing Bill’s house led to a means of representing experiential architecture. Drawing influence from Smout Allen, the representations of Bill’s house play the dual functions of examining, as well as narrating the qualities of place (Drawing Architecture 93). The design of Bill’s house drew from the formal vocabulary of the installation and the atmosphere of Bill’s paintings to develop a specific response to the idiosyncrasies of Lyttelton. This formal language is used as a foundation to address how a sense of place may be returned to the place in the final design.






134. Wharf Model Detail


WHARF DWELLERS • Aim • Method • Programme • Site • Introducing the Design • Process • The Public Wharf • Reflection The third design experiment culminated in a wharf for the community. This design explored the physical disconnection between Lyttelton and its foreshore and the relationship between the port and its residents. These are the principal factors affecting Lyttelton’s place identity.

133. London Street Brown Card, Plaster


AIM This design experiment investigated the main proposition of the thesis: how place might be represented in architectural form. The aim was to apply the same iterative methodology established previously to formally represent and intervene in the defining feature of Lyttelton’s identity – the disjunction between the town and its foreshore created by the privatisation of the port.

METHOD The final design experiment applied the method detailed in the introduction. The work alternated between physical modelling, photography, digital collage and drawing. Research on the historic and social aspects of the site further developed the forms through a consideration of programme. Digital modelling was used to develop the aspects of the form that become too complex to physically model. CNC routing brought the design work back to the physical world, allowing the design to be manipulated by hand and again making opportunities for photography. Digital collage and drawing was utilised again to produce the final images in relation to the existing urban Landscape.




137. Making the Wharf



Historically, Lyttelton Port was open to the public and people could access the wharves. Safety concerns gradually reduced access and by 2001, public access to the wharfs had ceased (LPC 45). The result was a loss of connection between the community, its waterfront and with the port itself. The community has communicated a strong desire to the Lyttelton Port Company for that connection to be reinstated (LPC 46). There is a dichotomy between the rights of the public to access the sea and the Port Company to restrict access. The primary programme for this intervention was to provide a new architectural infrastructure that allowed residents to regain access to the water. Along with secondary programmes, the design negotiated a means of public engagement with the waterfront whilst allowing the port to function as usual.


138. tev Maori arriving at Lyttelton 23 March 1966 The ‘new’ Passenger Terminal building on the No.2 Wharf when the dockside was publically accessible.


THE SITE The site stretches from Lyttelton’s main street (London Street), through the 100m wide port zone to the inner harbour. This area encompasses a wide range of topographical contexts and building types. The aftermath of the 2011 earthquakes left many empty spaces throughout this precinct where buildings were damaged and removed. Some 60% of the buildings on the main street suffered structural damage (LPC 79). The empty spaces provided numerous places to intervene without disturbing the remaining, scattering of buildings.

139. Lyttelton Figure Ground The Site


Town Centre Tunnel Residential Commercial / Retail Community Site Port Zone




143. 144.

140. Building Programmes 141. Lyttelton Coffee Co. rebuild 142. London Street DEMOLITION 143. ‘Yellow Sticker’ 144. The port zone


145. Harbourlight Demolition May 2011

Another lasting effect of the earthquakes was the loss of Lyttelton’s beacons. Beacons are generally conspicuous structures, acting to signal or guide ships at sea (Oxford Dictionaries). Here, I refer to the beacons in a broader sense encompassing the buildings that, through their vertical form, act to delineate the place around them. This design acknowledges the importance of these beacons in contributing to Lyttelton’s identity. The Harbourlight once stood in the centre of Lyttelton looking out to sea. Its empty space, at the northern end of the site, provided a place to commence design.

146. Locations of the Lost Beacons amidst Lyttelton’s topography Model



Time Ball Station

1876 - 2011


1878 - 2011

The Harbourlight

1917 - 2011

Shadbolt house

1959 - 2012

Tunnel Administration Building

1964 - 2013

147. The Demolition of London Street 2011



THE STRIP The design started by drawing a 30m wide strip parallel to the town grid from the town centre (where the Harbourlight once stood) to the harbour. This strip sliced through the privatised port zone, and out to the end of wharf 2. The strip acts as a core sample of Lyttelton’s varied contexts and programmes. At the northern end, the town centre contains remnants of the theatre, a supermarket and the site of the weekly farmer’s market. Further south, the strip encompasses a commercial zone of offices and warehouses, and the industrial area of the port that includes the rail yard and docks.


148. Satellite view Lyttelton Harbour Port and Town Centre.

MAKING THE STRIP A 1:500 site model of the strip was built from card and plaster to begin to understand the existing spatial structure of the strip.

149. Making the Strip 1:500 context model, Plan.



Using archival photographs to provide images of the buildings that had existed on each site in the past, the model was photographed. This was done with building arrangements from differing periods, revealing how the site had changed spatially. These photographs were over-laid; creating an ephemeral section that aestheticised the site and its history. Darker areas of the image signify permanence contrasted with lighter areas of transience.


151. 1:500 context model

150. Norwich Quay 1870

152. Making the Strip 1:500 context model, Section.



The architectural response is a public ‘wharf ’ that stretches out from the township, spans the privatised port zone, and reconciles the town with its foreshore. Towers link the new wharf with the existing urban and industrial fabric. The design restores the historical notion of the wharf as a place characterised by its diverse activity and mixing of social demographics. 153. Hammond Watching for Buller 1993.


121 154. Wharf Section


PROCESS • A New Condition • Towers • Surface • Programming the surface

The strip was lifted up giving form to a pier-like structure. Due to the incline of the hill, its datum line is at the level of the town and creates a new horizon line over the port allowing the activities of the industrial zone to continue below.

• Digital Modelling • Making

155. EARLY SKETCH OF THE STRIP LIFTED UP a series of vertical elements link the elevated strip to the ground


156. Wharf Dwellers Occupying the wharf surface Drawing influence from Superstudio’s Continuous Monument, The Model-rama was used to test the concept of a new condition laid over the town. Towers reach up through the surface from below, bridging the gap between new and existing.


TOWERS Treating the strip as a ‘core sample’ of Lyttelton, a series of vertical towers were established as markers of particular conditions at ground level. These towers, inserted amongst the existing fabric, acted to suck up the programme of the buildings that stood there prior to the earthquake. The northernmost tower filled in the space where the Harbourlight theatre stood. The next marks the threshold from the street and the new wharf – as the tallest; it became a new beacon for Lyttelton’s town centre. The central tower sits upon the demarcation wall between the town and the port – it is the main entry to the wharf. The next tower stands on the sea wall, housing a new Lyttelton Port Company building. This tower was designed to look towards the harbour mouth and includes a house for the harbour master. The final tower at the end of the new wharf provides vertical access to a lower barge that allows the public access to the water’s edge and new ferry terminal.


157. TOWER SKETCH The central tower sits on the demarcation wall between town and port 158 - 161. SECTION DEVELOPMENT The method of collage used in ‘Bill’s House’ was developed in the design of the wharf whereby photographs of models were collaged into a section, forming a base to draw into.







162. COLLAGE SECTION Mixed media, model and drawing


163. MAKING THE TOWERS Forms and spatial clues were developed from the past experiments to design the towers. As the the installation and house were dealing with the same local conditions, their forms and tectonic became transferable, taking up new roles in the public wharf.


SURFACE The junctions and spans of the wharf were manipulated with regard to the form of the towers. Rifts, hollows and folds were designed into the wharf creating an undulating surface of pathways and hideaways. Because the surface was designed in relation to the towers, it retains an abstracted relationship to the ground conditions. As it is traversed, people will be aware of the constant contextual change below. 164.






164. surface test 1 165. surface test 1 166. yokohama passenger terminal F.O.A. designed undulations and rifts in the surface to direct occupants. This detail was used to develop how the surface might guide people into the towers. 167.


SKETCH The surface becomes a connective tissue between the towers surface test 1 At this stage in the process there was a constant exchange between the design of the towers at the level of the pier and the design of the surface in relationship to these towers.



170. SURFACE TESTS 2 & 3 The surface was further developed through a series of models in which blocks of timber were carved with a Dremel. Shifting away from the faceted nature of card modelling, this medium allowed organic forms to emerge and redirect the design development. The wharf became a new landscape, augmented by Lyttelton’s topography.

171. SURFACE TEST 2 Detail

172. SURFACE TESTS 4 & 5 The carved timber blocks were used as moulds to form papier mâché allowing columns and towers to be added.


173. View to the harbour, through a building under repair London St

174. Papier-mâchÊ Surface Test 4 Using the Model-rama to test the surface against the landscape revealed how the undulations resembled the surrounding landscape.



176. Surface Tests 2 & 4 Scan


178. Papier-mâché Surface Test 3 Model-rama


179. SURFACE TESTs 4 & 5 Photographs of the modelled surface informed a method of drawing. Fragments of the strip were drawn in plan allowing the undulations and pathways to be articulated in relation to the towers and views.




WHARF PLAN The first plan conceptually represented the surface of the wharf. Towers cut into its boundaries providing connections with the town and port. Kiosks, furniture and columns were then placed across this new surface to activate its use. Various environments were formed according to how the entities were positioned and grouped, and reinforced the changing spatial structure as the pier is traversed


181. Wharf PLAN sketch

137 182. Wharf Section


183. PLAN SKETCH Detail


184. PLAN SKETCH Detail







DIGITAL MODELLING To develop the forms of the wharf more precisely, it was manipulated digitally by scanning the plan drawing it into a CAD programme. A tool was used to displace the shaded drawing to form a 3D surface. Darker shades pushed the surface down and lighter shades lifted it up. At first this produced a very chaotic surface (figure 188, A). An iterative process was used whereby the plan drawing was redrawn then put back into CAD to see it in 3D before redrawing it again to develop it further. The drawings in figure 186 show this development. Figure 187 shows the final 3D surface created from this drawing process.








The CAD model was CNC routed at 1:500 into timber to evaluate the success of the development and compare it to the earlier models. The form was used as the underside of the wharf as it appeared to be drooping down, bearing the undulations of the pathways above and curiously, resembling a ship’s hull.







194. FINAL WIREFRAME (previous pg. included)

Further CAD modelling developed the upper surface. The final wharf retains the soft undulations on the underside and more defined pathways and rifts on the upper surface.



198. WHARF PLAN Detail


In a similar mode to the earlier plans, the routed surface informed how the drawings were developed. Like the routed timber surface, the plan began to take on softer forms which swept around towers and kiosks.



MAKING Because the emphasis of the design process was on physical testing, a final 1:200 model of the wharf was constructed to test and refine the formal relationships of the towers and the developed surface against the site context. The surface was CNC routed into a flitch of Kaori, and card and wire was used to hand model the towers, connecting the site and the wharf.


200. CNC ROUTED SURFACE 2200 x 130 mm




203. WHARF SURFACE The carved surface was a direct formalisation of the sketched plan drawings, making reference to the design processes of Twose in the White-House. As a result the distressed surface of the wharf is reminiscent of its former life as a drawing.




206. PAINTING THE WHARF Just as the sketch models had informed the development of the plan, the plan came to inform the development of the final model. The surface of the wharf was painted and drawn into to give the impression of different surface treatment.



208. During this stage of design there was a constant exchange between modelling and drawing, each informing the development of the other.






212. 213. MODELLING THE TOWERS Lastly in the making process , towers and kiosks were crafted into the wharf forming connections to the ground below.




town to impose new buildings, towers are inserted amongst the existing fabric at the water’s edge, in the city, the working port area, and amongst the existing wharves. These are connected at a higher level by an atmospheric landscape floating  over all three zones. The wharf provides views across the port area allowing occupants to feel a sense of engagement with activities of the port .

THE PUBLIC WHARF The final design serves as a built landscape providing a new public infrastructure for Lyttelton that allows residents to regain access to the water’s edge. By slicing through the town and port, the intervention acts as an observational device, in a similar mode of practice to Smout Allen. In this sense the wharf actively exposes the uneasy relationship between the people and the port.

The towers bridge the threshold between the two datum lines: the wharf and the existing context. From different points of views the towers take on different characteristics, embodying both panoramic and human proportions. The following images detail the design of the wharf.

The wharf stretches out from the main street, spans the forbidden port zone, and reconciles the town with its water’s edge. Rather than obliterating the



























221. FINAL WHARF MODEL 2200 x 130 mm






225. ENTRY TOWER Section detail

224. ENTRY TOWER Model



226. L.P.C. BUILDING Model-rama The Lyttelton Port Company building stands on the sea wall and is designed to look out towards the harbour mouth.


227. The Harbour Master’s RESIDENCE Section detail. The harbour master’s residence is distinctive in its requirement to be a private respite amongst the predominantly public space. It is tethered to the tower which 179 contains the Lyttelton Port Company.






230. BARGE AND ACCESS Section Detail

231. TIP OF THE WHARF The southernmost tower looks back at the town and provides access to a new barge which floats amongst the existing docks. This allows the occupants to regain access to the water’s edge and a new ferry terminal.


paintings. The forms could become transient and reemerge in the wharf as both the house and the wharf are addressing the same proposition: how Lyttelton’s character might be formalised in design. Where the wharf resolved the physical disconnection of the town and water’s edge, the towers are representative of Lyttelton redesigned through Hammond’s vision of Lyttelton and the lost beacons. Together, the towers and wharf re-establish a sense of place for Lyttelton’s occupants.

REFLECTION The new, speculative design of the wharf confronts a very real issue that faces Lyttelton and addresses the needs of both the town and port. Both conditions of the town and port are supported in this new design. It does not attempt to blend their needs, but rather celebrates and exposes their co-inhabitation through a new prevailing condition. Most importantly, the wharf is representative of the defining feature of Lyttelton and acts to re-establish a sense of place for the occupants. Due to the importance of the port in the history and future role of the place, this design aimed to devise a way the port could continue to work while allowing the occupants to engage with the water. The design reappraises Lyttelton by the addition of the public wharf.

Place is represented in the form of the wharf by heightening the occupant’s awareness of their context. Like the process of Smout Allen, the design sought to expose latencies in the site. However , where Smout Allen generally focus on a site’s natural resources, the wharf takes an active role exposing the affect the port has had on the town. The urban grid, privatised port zone and drop in elevation across the site all contributed to formalising the public wharf. By lifting the public wharf above the site, occupants are taken out of the environment and provided an alternative way of looking at it. The wharf is not intended to ‘fix’ the town, but uses architecture to draw attention to and encourage discourse about the future of Lyttelton’s identity.

The method of making continued to develop the forms established in the design of Bill’s House, however, the forms took on new roles in the public wharf. The towers designed in the house responded to Lyttelton’s identity by learning from Hammond’s


233. London Street Section









a range of influences and problems to manifest in a design. The dual method of making and narrative allowed sources of inspiration outside the initial aim to feed in to the design. This was particularly relevant when addressing the multivalent concept of place.

SUMMARY The literary context provided a historical understanding of the notion of place and a framework to review the relationship between place and architecture. This framework was used to analyse four case studies, to understand strategies for formalising place. The design experiments were located in Lyttelton. The first experiment was an installation that established a method for materialising ephemeral characteristics. This experiment gave form to an architectural tectonic and poetic language that was used throughout the research. The second experiment used a narrative around Bill to form a brief that considered how he might dwell in the Lyttelton landscape. The architectural outcome evolved into three tower-like structures spaced across the site as an extension of the forest. This project firmly grounded the research in narrative and mixed media drawing methods. Finally, the third experiment explored the disconnection between the town and its water’s edge that was established to be the defining feature of Lyttelton’s place identity. This third experiment brought together the methods developed in the early projects resulting in a public wharf, designed to actively expose the disconnection by allowing the residents and the port to overlap. This final experiment is intended to be a comment on Lyttelton’s identity and revealed a method of understanding of place through architectural form.

Undertaking sequential projects contributed to a greater understanding of my own methods and formal predispositions, raising my awareness of how I might approach future projects. It also showed the value of establishing a consistent formal vocabulary and design method. As each experiment increased in scale, the formal language was already predetermined, meaning the design focus could shift directly to architectural concerns such as programme and assembly. There were some problems with the research process. For example, the installation immediately diverted to an experimental brief that was not sited – the research would have benefited from the installation being grounded in a specific place. Undertaking more process based work around the existing characteristics of Lyttelton in the early stages of the research would have helped to form a stronger engagement between the design outcomes and Lyttelton. However, even though a specific place was not looked at from the start, the focus on how a place might be created through the installation helped direct the later experiments in the direction of placemaking. Another problem was how the early modelling tests began to define and restrict the ongoing design experiments. The formal characteristics of card modelling developed during the installation led to difficulties in later experiments. While these materials lent themselves to abstract spatial conditions, they made it difficult to reinsert architectural conventions. Also my personal concern with the processes of making began to take priority over the proposition: formalising place. In particular, the wharf design became driven for periods solely by methodological investigation. This added to the design losing a connection with the physical site.

CRITICAL REFECTION A number of discoveries have emerged from this research. Most significantly, it highlighted the value of engaging with the notion of place during the design process. The richness that the ephemeral characteristics of place have to offer architecture were made evident throughout this research, from the sensorial experience of  the installation through to the social and philosophical concerns confronted in the design of the public building. The research revealed opportunities for architecture to engage with interdisciplinary concerns and thus become relevant to a wider audience. Specifically, this furthered my understanding of how an iterative process allows for

The lack of connection that occurred between the wharf design and the existing context could have been resolved with further exploration. If the project had engaged with a wider site model this would have


helped to assess the spatial and scale relationships between the proposed design and the existing township and port. This would have allowed design to be further developed to become part of the place, by seeing the physical and social implications it may have for the wider context of Lyttelton. A comprehensive consideration of programme and architectural conventions would have also helped to form stronger correlations between the proposed architecture and place. The idea that the towers would house the programmes of what used to exist at ground level before the earthquakes was not fully considered. An exploration of how the architecture might be constructed and connected to the surrounding areas both help to blur the boundary between the real and imagined to form a closer connection between the place and architectural outcomes.


The design outcomes in this research uncovered a range of methods that aided in representing place through architectural form. Specifically, the modelrama provided a way to test how the forms, which were partly a response to the place, would in turn modify the place. The narrative provided another key method. By using narrative based programmes that related strongly to the place, the forms and spatial relationships become a creative development of the details and situational events that characterise a place (Danko 11). The three experiments concluded by identifying ways to occupy the Lyttelton landscape and making evident the current disjunction between the people and the port. In the context of this research, emphasis is based on the methods employed throughout the design process to draw forth and expose these latencies of place. The usefulness of narrative and mixed media making was particularly relevant in this regard. Through this design method, the research clarified how atmospheric and material qualities of place can give structure to a design outcome. By representing place in architectural form, inhabitants can gain a new understanding of their environment, engaging them with the places they occupy.




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01. ‘Placemakers 1’ (1996). Bill Hammond. Jingle Jangle Morning. Christchurch Art Gallery. 2007.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii 08. ‘Exhibition Poster’ (1990). Hammond. Unknown Source. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 09. ‘Melting Moments ll’ (1999). Hammond. Jingle Jangle Morning. Christchurch Art Gallery. 2007. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 13. ‘The Prisoners Dream 1’ (2000). Laurence Aberhart. Aberhart. Victoria University Press. 2007. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 14. ‘The Prisoners Dream 5’ (2000). Ibid.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 15. ‘Kite Farm’ (2011). Smout Allen. Augmented Landscapes. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007.. . . . . . 13 19. ‘Lyttelton Harbour’ (ca 1870). Artist unknown. National Library of New Zealand. <>. . . . . . . 16 27. ‘Techno-Nature’ (2010). Smout Allen. <>. . . . . . . 23 28. ‘Watching for Buller’ (1993). Hammond. Jingle Jangle Morning. Christchurch Art Gallery. 2007. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 29. ‘Bill Hammond in his Studio’ (1991). Robin Morrison. Ibid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 30. ‘I heat up, I can’t cool down’ (1985). Hammond. Ibid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 31. ‘Watching for Buller‘ (1993). Hammond. Ibid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 34. ‘The Fall of Icarus‘ (1995). Hammond. Ibid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 35. ‘Plan Development’ (1999). Simon Twose. SAHANZ Imagining. Conference Precedings. Newcastle, Australia.. . . 30 37. ‘White-House Interior’ (1999). Twose. Ibid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 36. ‘White-House’ (1999). Twose. Ibid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 38. ‘Modelling the Wet Lands’ (2011). Smout Allen. Architectural Design Sept/Oct. 2013. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 39. ‘Making’ (2011). Smout Allen. Ibid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 40. ‘Making’ (2011). Smout Allen. Ibid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 41. ‘Sketch Studies’ (2011). Smout Allen. Ibid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 53. ‘Box Kite’ (1910). Ludwig Wittgenstein. Glossop. <>. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 59. ‘RMS Titanic under construction’ (1910). George Grantham Bain Collection <>. . . . . 46 81. ‘Bill Hammond in his Studio’ (1991). Robin Morrison. Jingle Jangle Morning. Christchurch Art Gallery. 2007 . . . . . 64 100. ‘Cosmos Commercial Building’ (1989). Bolles & Wilson. El Croquis 047: Bolles+Wilson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 112. ‘The Fall of Icarus’ (1995). Detail. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 138. ‘TEV Maori arriving at Lyttelton’ (1966). NZ coastal shipping. <>. . . . . . . . 109 150. ‘Norwich Quay’ (1870). Photographer unknown. National Library of New Zealand. <>. . . 119 153. ‘Watching for Buller’ (1993). Detail.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 191. ‘SS Normandie capsized’ (1942). Photographer unknown. <> . . . . . 142



Wharf Dwellers  
Wharf Dwellers  

Architectural Masters thesis completed in 2015 at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand by Tom Dobinson