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New Zealand Institute of Architects









Finalist: Theo Clifford

Theo Clifford from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington School of Architecture is a finalist for project 'Drawing the line'.

Project description

Cyclone Gabrielle exposed the fragility of our landscape and how many people are living on shifting ground. Around the world, and here in Aotearoa, many people will need to retreat to appropriate grounds as the climate changes and sea levels rise.

So, how could we do it? Situated in Te Matau-a-Māui (Hawke’s Bay), I explore an architecture and urbanism that would enable us to inhabit the whenua more sustainably and resiliently. As Ahuriri (Napier) and the wider region faces sea level rise, coastal erosion, flooding, drought and so on, there are opportunities to radically rethink our regions.

Through drawing both with a pencil and digitally, and at a wide range of scales, I have begun to imagine the potential of a new Te Matau-a-Māui, a series of towns and cities posited around the edge of the lowland plain, much of which was once wetland, and connected by a piece of transport infrastructure. The proposal is a sketch of what Te Matau-a-Māui could become.

Jury citation

The issues we are facing have been bravely put out there and the language used makes them very real. The approach of restraint is to be respected. The desire to achieve an immediate outcome is not the way forward for this topic, and sectional studies draw out the multiple relationships between people and an ever-shifting ground.

What stands out is the way the water has been brought forward – as architects we question what needs to be brought forward and what needs to recede. The questions the project raises are absolutely on point, firm and well expressed. We have an uncomfortable history and are we facing an uncomfortable future. Is there another generation of people who will find out what it’s like to have land confiscated – is there another wave of this coming?

The sketching and overlapping of ideas invite the viewer to be part of that experience. The lines are so gentle, like a watermark, and pull you in. They show a measured eye and hand in scale and proportion.